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Basal cell carcinoma

  • Overview


    Did you know that basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that typically begins in the basal cells? These cells produce new skin cells as old ones die off. If you notice a slightly transparent bump on your skin, it could be a sign of basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is most commonly found on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as your head and neck. Experts believe long-term exposure to UV radiation from sunlight is the primary cause of basal cell carcinoma. Avoiding prolonged sun exposure and using sunscreen regularly is best to prevent this type of cancer.

  • Symptoms


    Basal cell carcinoma typically forms on areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun, particularly the head and neck. However, it can also occur on body parts generally shielded from the sun, such as the genital area.

    A change in the skin, such as a growth or an open sore, can signal basal cell carcinoma. These skin alterations (lesions) typically exhibit one of the following traits:
    A shiny, skin-coloured hump that is transparent, allowing some light to pass through it. On white skin, the bump may seem pink or pearly white. The bubble frequently appears brown or glossy black on dark and black skin. On dark and Black skin, tiny blood vessels might be visible, albeit challenging. The lump could bleed and develop a scab.
    A lesion that is brown, black, blue, or has dark patches on it, and it has a slightly elevated, transparent border.
    A raised-edged patch that is flat and scaly. These areas may get fairly huge with time.
    A scar-like, waxy, white lesion without a definite border.

  • When to see a doctor


    If you notice changes in the appearance of your skin, such as a new growth, a change in a preexisting development, or a persistent sore, schedule an appointment with your healthcare practitioner.

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  • Causes


    The development of basal cell carcinoma is caused by a mutation in the DNA of one of the skin’s basal cells. These cells are located at the bottom of the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin responsible for producing new skin cells. The DNA of a basal cell controls the creation of new skin cells by providing instructions on what to do. However, a mutation in this DNA can cause the basal cell to multiply rapidly and grow instead of dying like it usually would. This accumulation of abnormal cells can eventually form a cancerous tumour, which is a lesion that appears on the skin.
    Ultraviolet light and other causes
    It is believed that ultraviolet (UV) radiation, present in sunlight, tanning beds, and commercial tanning lamps, is responsible for a large portion of the DNA damage in basal cells. However, skin cancers that appear on skin not typically exposed to sunlight cannot be attributed to sun exposure. Additional factors can influence the risk and growth of basal cell carcinoma, and the precise aetiology of some cases may not always be known.

  • Risk factors


    The following factors raise your chance of basal cell carcinoma:
    Persistent solar exposure. Spending much time in the sun or artificial tanning beds increases your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. Living in a sunny or high-altitude area exposes you to more ultraviolet (UV) radiation; therefore, the threat is more significant. Severe sunburns further increase your risk.
    Radiation treatment. Radiation therapy used to treat acne or other skin disorders may make basal cell carcinoma more likely to develop where it has already been treated.
    Light skin. People who freckle or burn easily, have delicate skin, red or blond hair, or light-coloured eyes are likelier to develop basal cell carcinoma.
    Advancing years. Most basal cell carcinomas affect elderly persons since they can take decades to form. However, it can also impact more youthful adults, and it is growing increasingly widespread among those in their 20s and 30s.
    A skin cancer history in one’s family or personally. If you’ve already had it once or more, you can get basal cell carcinoma again. You may be more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma if you have a family history of skin cancer.
    Immunosuppressing medications. Taking immune-suppressing treatments, such as anti-rejection meds following transplant surgery, dramatically raises your risk of developing skin cancer.
    The presence of arsenic. The risk of basal cell carcinoma and other malignancies is increased by arsenic, an abundant hazardous element in the environment. Due to its natural occurrence, everyone has some exposure to arsenic. However, some people might be more exposed if they consume tainted well water or work in an environment where arsenic is produced or used.
    Skin cancer-causing disorders that run in families. Numerous uncommon genetic conditions, such as xeroderma pigmentosum and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin-Goltz syndrome), might raise the risk of basal cell carcinoma.

  • Prevention


    To reduce your risk of basal cell carcinoma, you can:
    Avoid the sun in the middle of the day to lower your chance of basal cell carcinoma. The sun’s beams are most intense in many locations between 10 am and 4 pm. Even in the winter or when the sky is hazy, schedule outside activities for other times of the day.
    All year long, use sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply plenty of sunscreen and reapply it frequently every two hours or more if you’re swimming or sweating.
    Put on safety gear. Wear dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat, which offers more protection than a baseball cap or visor, to protect your skin.
    Additionally, several businesses sell protective apparel. A dermatologist can suggest an acceptable brand. Bring your shades. Look for those that can block both UVA and UVB rays, the two types of UV radiation.
    Skip the tanning bed. UV radiation raises your chance of developing skin cancer that tanning beds release.
    Regularly check your skin, and let your doctor know if anything changes. Check your skin frequently for changes to moles, freckles, lumps, birthmarks, and new skin growths. Examine your face, neck, ears, and scalp using mirrors.
    Examine the tops and bottoms of your arms, hands, and trunk and your chest. Check your feet, especially the soles and the gaps between your toes, as well as the front and rear of your legs. Additionally, look between your buttocks and your genitalia.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023