Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Areas of skin that are damaged have a higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is most likely to develop skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or inflammatory skin diseases.
Factors that may increase the chances of basal cell carcinoma:
A personal history of skin cancer
sunburns, freckling, or long periods of sun exposure
Frequent use of tanning beds
Blonde or red hair
Blue or green eyes
Fair skin that rarely tans
A family history of skin cancer
Treatment that suppresses the immune system, such as having an organ transplant
Certain rare genetic disorders, such as Gorlin’s syndrome
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This includes a thorough examination of the skin and any skin lesions.
Samples of skin lesions can be
and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer. A biopsy will also help determine the stage and type of the cancer if it is present.
The information will be used to guide treatment and make a prognosis.
Alberta Provincial Cutaneous Tumour Team. Prevention of skin cancer. Edmonton (Alberta): CancerControl Alberta; 2013 Feb. 27 p. (Clinical practice guideline; no. CU-014). Available at: https://www.guideline.gov/summaries/summary/48130?#Section420.
Basal cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Basal cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.