603-889-4149 | 76 Allds Street | Nashua, NH 03060

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • basal cell carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. We bring decades experience to the diagnosis and successful treatment of BCC.

More than two million cases of this skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. This skin cancer usually develops on skin that gets sun exposure, such as on the head, neck, and back of the hands. BCC is especially common on the face, often forming on the nose.  It is possible to get BCC on any part of the body, including the trunk, legs, and arms.

People who use tanning beds have a much higher risk of getting BCC. They also tend to get basal cell carcinoma earlier in life.

This type of skin cancer grows slowly. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Treatment is important because BCC can grow widely and deeply, destroying skin tissue and bone.

  • Anyone can get this common skin cancer, but some people have a greater risk. People with a greater risk of getting basal cell carcinoma have one or more of the following risk factors:

    Your Physical Traits

    — Light-colored or freckled skin
    — Blue, green, or gray eyes
    — Blond or red hair
    — An inability to tan

    What You’ve Done

    — Spent a lot of time outdoors for work or leisure, without using sunscreen or covering up with clothing.
    — Frequently used tanning beds.

    Your Medical History

    — If you had one basal cell carcinoma, your risk for a second increases risk by about 40%.
    — Close blood relatives had BCC.
    — Taking one or more drugs that suppress the body’s immune system. People take these drugs after receiving an organ transplant and to treat a medical condition, such as severe arthritis, lymphoma, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
    — Overexposure or long-term exposure to x-rays such as patients who received x-ray treatments for acne in the 1940s.

    Risk of Developing Many BCCs By 20 Years of Age

    Some people are born with a rare condition that makes them more likely to develop many skin cancers, including basal cell cancers, early in life. Although uncommon, BCC can develop by 20 years of age in people who do not have a rare medical condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum.

    What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma?

    Unlike many cancers, the cause of basal cell carcinoma is well known:

    Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds cause basal cell carcinoma.

    When UV rays from the sun or tanning beds hit our skin, these rays damage the DNA in the cells of our skin.  The body tries to repair this damage.  When the rays repeatedly hit our skin, the body cannot repair the damage.

    When the body cannot repair the damage, skin cancer develops.  Skin cancer usually develops after years of sun exposure.  Around 50 years of age, the risk of developing skin cancer increases significantly.

    People much younger than 50 years of age also get BCC.  Many of these people are women who use indoor tanning beds. Many of these BCCs could be prevented if the women never tanned indoors.


  • Basal cell carcinoma shows up on the skin in different ways. That’s because there are different types of this skin cancer. If you see any of the following on your skin, you should immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist:

    Dome-shaped skin growth with visible blood vessels. Often pink or skin-colored.  Can also be brown or black or have flecks of these colors in the growth.  Grows slowly. May flatten in the center, ooze, and crust over. Tends to bleed easily.

    Shiny pink or red, slightly scaly patch, especially when appears on the trunk.  It grows slowly and may be mistaken for a patch of eczema.

    Waxy feeling, hard, pale-white to yellow or skin-colored growth that looks like a scar.  Can be difficult to see the edges.

    Basal Cell Carcinoma May Look Like a Sore That:

    — Bleeds easily.
    — Won’t heal, or heals and returns.
    — Oozes or crusts over.
    — Has a sunken center, like a crater.
    — Has visible blood vessels in or around it.

    Although rare, basal cell carcinoma can feel painful or itch.  Usually, the only sign of basal cell carcinoma is a growth on the skin.


  • If you have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma  your prognosis is excellent.  Most basal cell carcinomas are cured with the prescribed treatment.


    — It is possible for basal cell carcinoma to recur.  These basal cell carcinomasare almost always cured with additional treatment.
    — People who have had basal cell carcinoma have a higher risk for getting another skin cancer.

    To help patients manage these risks, dermatologists recommend the following:

    Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist.  When found early, skin cancer usually can be cured.  Even melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, has a cure rate of nearly 100% when found early and treated.

    Perform skin self-exams.  Patients who are diagnosed with skin cancer are taught how to examine their skin for signs of skin cancer.  Be sure to examine your skin as often as recommended by your dermatologist.

    If you see anything on your skin that is growing, bleeding, or in any way changing, immediately call your dermatologist’s office.  A change could be an early sign of skin cancer.  Found early and treated, skin cancer can be cured.

    Protect your skin from the sun and indoor tanning.  This is essential to prevent further damage, which can increase the risk of getting another skin cancer.  These tips will help you protect your skin:
    — Wear sunscreen and lip balm that offers sun protection.  Apply these daily, even in the winter, and be sure to use sunscreen and lip balm that offer:
    — SPF 30 or higher
    — Broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection
    — Water resistance
    — Apply the sunscreen and lip balm to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
    — Apply the sunscreen to every part of your body that will not be covered by clothing.
    — Whenever possible, wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants.
    — Wear sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes.
    — Avoid outdoor activities when the sun is strongest – between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
    — Avoid getting a tan and never use a tanning bed or sun lamp.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Dermatology Department

How can I get more information?

Call our office at 603-889-4149
(SmartPhone users: just tap the phone number).