Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) has the dubious distinction of qualifying as both the most common form of skin cancer and the most common form of any cancer. Skin cancer is responsible for one-third of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States, and BCC accounts for the majority of those cases. The team of board-certified dermatologists at District Dermatology in McLean, Virginia specializes in providing comprehensive care for patients with BCC, including regular screenings, diagnosis, and surgical treatment. Call or book your appointment online today.
As the largest organ of your body, your skin is formed from several layers. Basal skin cells reside within the deepest part of your epidermis, or your outermost layer of skin.
Any abnormal, uncontrolled growth or lesion that arises from the basal layer qualifies as a basal cell carcinoma (BCC). More than four million Americans are diagnosed with a BCC every year.
While BCC can develop anywhere on your body, it typically occurs on areas of skin that are most often exposed to the sun, including your face — it often appears on the nose — neck, ears, scalp, backs of the hands, arms, and legs.
Exposure to ultraviolet light causes BCC, either from the sun or tanning bed use. It can develop from cumulative, lifetime exposure, or from briefer instances of more intense exposure.
BCC may appear as a sore that bleeds easily, oozes, or crusts over. Some forms of BCC don’t ever seem to heal, while others heal and then suddenly reappear. Others may appear sunken in the middle. Any of the following may be a BCC:
After performing a complete skin exam, your District Dermatology physician will biopsy any suspicious spots, growths, or lesions. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose skin cancer, including BCC.
As with other forms of skin cancer, BCC is best treated through complete surgical removal. Because BCC doesn’t typically spread, removing the growth is usually a successful treatment.
The two primary surgical methods for removing BCC are excision and Mohs surgery. Excision surgery involves cutting out the BCC along with a small margin of surrounding skin tissue. Mohs surgery involves excising the visible parts of a BCC, then removing successive layers of cancer-containing cells.
Each layer is examined under a microscope, and further layers are removed until the cancer is no longer detected.
As a more advanced and precise procedure, Mohs surgery is often the best option for BCCs that are more difficult to treat.
It’s essential to avoid using tanning beds and protect your skin from excessive sun exposure to reduce your risk of BCC and other forms of skin cancer.
Adequate skin protection includes applying sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside, even on cool or cloudy days. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and clothes that provide more coverage is also ideal.
It’s also helpful to avoid spending time in the sun when its rays are strongest, from 10am-2pm. If you happen to be outdoors during that time, try to stay in the shade.
To learn more about BCC or schedule your next skin cancer screening, call the office today or book your appointment online anytime.