Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that involves the basal cells, which are found in the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). Like all skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma is usually caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds, but genetic defects also can trigger basal cell carcinoma to develop. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It almost never grows beyond the original site of the tumor. Only in very rare cases does it spread to other parts of the body or become life-threatening. Nevertheless, it can be blemishing if not treated promptly.

Overview and Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma symptoms may include:

  • an open sore that won’t heal
  • a reddish patch of irritated skin
  • a shiny red or pink bump
  • a shiny scar-like bump
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Diagnosis

If you have any skin concerns like those mentioned above, it’s important to see a dermatologist. Ultimately, the only way to diagnose basal cell carcinoma is through a skin biopsy. The skin patch will be removed and sent to a pathologist for review under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

Treatment

Basal cell carcinoma treatment may include:

  • Surgery to remove the basal cell carcinoma and a small margin of healthy tissue around it; in most cases, no further treatment.
  • Photodynamic therapy – the use of medications, called photosensitizing agents, and light to kill cancer cells

In rare cases where the basal cell carcinoma has spread, further treatment may be needed. But this is exceedingly rare.

Learn More

The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program provides leading edge care for patients with all types of skin cancer.

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Program