Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Medicines & Treatments
Commonly asked questions about basal cell carcinoma skin cancer:
- What is basal cell carcinoma?
- Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer risk factors
- Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer causes
- Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer symptoms
- Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer treatments
- How to prevent cancer
- What drugs are used to treat basal cell carcinoma cancer?
What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma is one of three forms of skin cancer, along with melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer. The cancer gets its name from the basal cells that are initially effected when the cancer first develops. Basal cells are skin cells whose duties primarily consist of producing new skins cells to replace old cells that have died.
Although it can appear several different ways, basal cell carcinoma often appears as a waxy bump in an area frequently exposed to the sun. Just like the other two forms of skin cancer, it is believed that basal cell carcinoma’s development is rooted in prolonged exposure ultraviolet radiation.
As the cancer develops, the initial bump will begin to take on the appearance of open sores, pink growths, or scars. Basal cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes and is not typically a life threatening form of cancer, although it can be disfiguring if not properly treated.
With over four million diagnosed cases of basal cell carcinoma in the United States each year, it is the most common form of cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
There are several factors that can affect the likelihood of an individual suffering from the development of basal cell carcinoma cancer. While some risk factors are outside of an individuals control, many of them can be controlled by the actions and decisions of an individual.
If a single or multiple risk factors apply to an individual it does not indicate causation as one may still not be subjected to the development of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. However, as more factors apply to someone, their likelihood of developing the cancer will increase.
Some of the most common risk factors that can indicate a heightened risk of basal cell carcinoma includes:
Prolonged Ultraviolet (UV) Light Exposure (Sunlight Or Tanning Bed)
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation plays a major role in the development of any form of skin cancer. This radiation can come from direct sunlight or time spent in a tanning bed. In fact, tanning beds have been known to increase the likelihood of skin cancer be over 75%.
UV radiation damages the DNA of skin cells if the skin is not adequately protected. After extensive damage, the radiation will begin to affect the DNA of the genes that control the growth of skin cells. When this damage occurs, skin cancer development begins as the cells mutate and begin abnormal growth.
Being Fair Skinned
Those who have fair skin develop all forms of skin cancer more commonly than those with darker complexions. As skin pigment – melanin – levels decrease, so does the skins ability to protect itself. This vulnerability is especially high for those with freckles or who burn often and easily.
Being Older Or Male
As people get older, their chances of developing basal cell carcinoma skin cancer rises – likely because of the buildup of UV radiation exposure over the years. In addition to age being a factor, males traditionally are more susceptible to developing basal cell carcinoma than women – mainly because career opportunities place males outside more often than females.
Exposure To Chemical & Radiation
Exposure to large amounts of arsenic has been cited as something that can skyrocket an individuals chance of developing basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. While toxic, some areas have arsenic occurring naturally in some well water.
Individuals in the coal, tar, paraffin, or oil industry may be exposed to additional chemicals that make them more susceptible to basal cell carcinoma skin cancer.
Previous Skin Conditions (Personal Or Family)
Those who previously developed any form of skin cancer frequently sees their risk of developing additional skin cancer increase. A family history of skin cancer also indicates a high risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP)
This condition is inherited but extremely rare. Those who suffer from the condition have a reduced ability to repair DNA damage in skin cells and often develop multiple skin cancers beginning in their childhood.
Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome
A rare congenital condition, those afflicted may experience multiple cases of basal cell cancer in addition to jaw, eyes, and nervous tissue abnormalities. Initial developments typically occur as a child or teenager with exposure to UV rays serving as a catalyst to tumor development.
Weakened Immune System
A weakened immune system leads to the body being unable to repair damage in the body, making the body more susceptible to the development of skin cancer. Those who undergo organ transplants and take immune weakening drugs frequently fall victim to this issue.
When skin cancer develops in bodies with weakened immune systems, they may grow faster with less time required to enter a fatal developmental stage.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Infection
HPV encompasses more than 150 different viruses in which the development of warts commonly occurs. Although these warts are not indicative of skin cancer, those found in the genital, anal, and fingernail areas often correlate to the discovery of skin cancer.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
While there is no way to eliminate the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma skin cancer, there are multiple ways an individual can make their risk as low as possible.
These efforts include avoiding the harmful effects of UV rays by applying sunscreen, seeking shade, and avoiding tanning whether outside or through use of a tanning bed.
In following these steps, the goal is to avoid burning the skin and causing DNA damage to skin cells as much as possible. Other methods to prevent this includes:
- Cover Body With Clothing
- Use Sunscreen SPF 30 Or Higher
- Reapply Sunscreen Every Two Hours
- Keep Newborns Out Of The Sun
- Self-Examine Skin Monthly
- Undergo Medical Examination Yearly
Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Causes
How Do I Get Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer?
As previously detailed, basal cell carcinoma skin cancer occurs when a basal cell develops a mutation due to irreparable DNA damage from UV rays. UV ray damage disrupts the basal cell’s ability to create new skin at a rate that matches that of the disposal of dying cells.
Once sufficiently damaged, a basal cell may begin producing cells at an excessive rate that culminates in a cancerous tumor.
This abnormal cell multiplication and growth can be traced to anything that can lead to DNA damage in cells. While this mainly is seen as prolonged exposure to UV rays, it can also be caused by exposure to toxic substances, a weakened immune system, or a genetic susceptibility to skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Symptoms
Basal cell carcinomas are frequently found on areas of the body exposed to heightened levels of sunlight. These areas most commonly include the head and neck but can also extend to the limbs, especially the legs.
In simplest form, any sore that does not heal, bleeds, or scabs is normally associated with the development of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. However, there are additional stipulations and guidelines that can be used to identify a symptom of basal cell carcinoma.
Pearly White Or Waxy Bump
This type of bump is frequently associated with bleeding and crusting over. Additionally, medical professionals report the appearance of visible blood vessel on these bumps which often develop in the facial area.
Skin patches can take any number of forms or shapes but the sudden development of one, regardless of appearance, is a common sign of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. These patches are commonly flat and scaly with a brown or flesh-colored coloration.
White, Waxy Scar
Hard to discover, these scars can indicate an exceptionally dangerous form of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer categorized as morpheaform. This form of basal cell carcinoma is more invasive than standard basal cell carcinoma and can lead to severe disfigurement.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Treatments
How Can Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Be Treated?
Highly treatable if diagnosed in early development stages prior to spreading to other parts of the body, several effective treatment methods are available to those who suffer from basal cell carcinoma.
With the cancer able to occur in different areas of the body and take several different forms, a medical professional will choose the treatment method most effective for the specific individual being treated.
Electrodesiccation And Curettage (ED&C)
ED & C is a very common treatment method for basal cell carcinoma as it is effective at eliminating early-stage development tumors on the torso and limbs.
The treatment process includes application of a local anesthetic, freezing of area, use of curette to scrape away tissue, and then use of electric needle to sear the wound shut.
The freezing and scraping process is used to ensure that all cancer cells surrounding the tumor are eliminated.
This method involves the cutting of the tissue and surrounding skin out from the body. Surgical excisions are more commonly used when an individual has developed a large basal cell carcinoma and results in a wide excision which my require skin reconstruction.
Possibly the simplest treatment method, a medical professional will use liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery) to freeze and kill cancerous cells. This method is most commonly used for thin surface level cancers.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Mohs surgery is characterized by a doctor removing the cancer layer by layer, doing so until it can be determined that no abnormal cells remain in the layer operated on.
Unlike other methods, this treatment does not involve the removal of a large amount of healthy surrounding tissue. This method is used when attempting to remove a recurring basal cell carcinoma or when a carcinoma is large, deep, rapidly-developing, or on the face.
Because most instances of basal cell carcinomas do not extend deep into the skin, topical treatments can serve as effective ways to treat the disease. Creams or ointments that include imiquimod or fluoroucacil can be employed for several weeks to stunt and destroy carcinomas developing on the surface of the skin.
In addition to topical creams and ointments, doctors may offer a pill prescription to treat a basal cell carcinoma. The drug prescribed is typically Erivedge (vismodegib) and is used when the carcinoma has spread to other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy is one of the most common cancer treatments regardless of the type or development stage of a cancer. The method uses x-rays or high-energy particles to kill any cancerous cells present.
The treatment is common for those who are hard to treat surgically or after surgery to ensure all cancerous tissue is eliminated.
Laser surgery vaporizes a tumor with highly focused light beams and is accurate enough to only kill surface level tumors. While this may limit the collateral damage, it also hinders its effectiveness to surface level tumors.
How to Prevent Cancer
Cancer prevention can vary based on different research, and opinionated studies or news reports. However, these simple lifestyle changes can make a difference in the prevention of developing or forming cancer.
- Eat healthy
- Limit or stop your use of tobacco
- Have a balanced lifestyle
- Avoid risky behavior
- Visit your doctor
- Protect your skin from the sun
What Drugs are Used to Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma Cancer?
The following drugs and medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute:
- Fluorouracil topical