Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Over time, the cells can form into a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. The reason why this happens is not known. Genetics and the environment may play a role.
This problem is more common in people who are fair-skinned. Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems vary from person to person. Common ones are:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your skin.
A skin biopsy may be taken to look for signs of cancer.
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Basal cell carcinoma is rarely deadly. The goal of treatment is to lower the risk of damage to nearby tissues.
The main way this is treated is by removing the growth. This can be done with:
People who cannot have surgery may have the growth treated with:
The risk of this problem can be lowered by:
American Academy of Dermatology
Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Basal cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed November 24, 2020.
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/basal-cell-carcinoma-of-the-skin. Accessed November 24, 2020.
Cameron MC, Lee E, et al. Basal cell carcinoma: Epidemiology; pathophysiology; clinical and histological subtypes; and disease associations. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Feb;80(2):303-317.
Skin cancer types: basal cell carcinoma overview. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma. Accessed November 24, 2020.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed November 24, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 4/20/2021