Basal Cell Carcinoma
Skin cancer takes many forms, depending on the layer of skin affected. Basal cell carcinoma strikes the top-most layer of skin, where your basal cells regulate the growth of new skin cells. Accelerated skin growth causes lesions, bumps, blisters and discolored patches of skin in clumps. These patches don’t go away on their own. Catching cancer early is the best way to cure it. Call Century Medical and Dental Center in Brooklyn today to speak to a knowledgeable doctor.
Basal cells are located in the top layer of your skin. Their job is to make new skin cells to replace the old ones that die off. Basal cell carcinoma — or cancer of the basal cells — occurs when the basal cells start growing out of control. Something in the cells’ DNA seems to malfunction, making new cell production jump into hyperdrive.
Often appearing as a transparent bump, the lesions form on areas exposed to sunlight. Like melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, ultraviolet light seems to aggravate this condition. Sunscreen remains your best defense when spending time outdoors, and if you contract this type of cancer, do not ever visit a tanning salon.
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Appearing most often on your head or neck — although your legs, arms and trunk can also be affected — this carcinoma appears as a blister, lesion or bump on your skin that won’t heal. These changes often exhibit one of several characteristics, such as:
- A lesion that’s brown, blue or black in color. It often has dark spots and a translucent border.
- A blister-like bump — skin-colored, pink or pearly white in color — that appears on your head, face or neck. This kind of basal cell carcinoma is the most common. It may rupture like a blister, bleed and scab over, but then it returns.
- A scaly, red flat patch that appears on your chest or back. This form can spread to large sections on your skin.
- A scar-like, waxy lesion that doesn’t have a defined border, this type of basal cell carcinoma is easily overlooked, but it represents a more invasive type of cancer.
Causes and Risk Factors
Cancer research is ongoing, but doctors believe UV light damages the DNA in the basal cells. This leads to misfiring the normal switch that signals the need for growing new skin cells. While other factors are likely involved, researchers have identified some noticeable risk factors, including:
- Any type of chronic exposure to sunlight or UV rays, such as from a tanning bed. Those who live in sunny or high-altitude climates live with higher risks of basal cell carcinoma.
- Individuals with fair skin or those who have a tendency to freckle or burn easily also exhibit higher incidences of this form of skin cancer.
- Men have a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma than women.
- Anyone over the age of 50 has a greater risk just because of more years spent in sunlight.
- Individuals who have undergone radiation therapy or who have been exposed to unusual levels of radiation exhibit a higher tendency.
- Genetics seems to play a role, so if you have close family members who have also experienced basal cell carcinoma, it places you at higher risk.
- Anyone taking immune-suppressing drugs, such as after an organ transplant, exhibits higher risks.
- Those who may have been exposed to arsenic, either through drinking contaminated well water or living near smelting plants are at higher risk.
- People who were born with certain rare genetic disorders exhibit higher rates of basal cell carcinoma.
Skin Cancer Treatment Options
Your Century Medical and Dental Center experienced dermatologist tailors your treatment based on the size, location, type and stage of your basal cell carcinoma. Your options may vary, depending on whether yours is a first-time or reoccurring case. Treatment options include:
- Freezing. Also called cryosurgery, this method works best for small cancers that have been detected early. Your doctor performs this procedure using liquid nitrogen to freeze and excise the cancer. Your Brooklyn dermatologist works carefully to prevent the chance of nerve damage.
- Electrodessication and curettage (ED&C). Used for small or superficial basal cell carcinomas, this treatment starts with your doctor removing several layers of skin containing the cancer cells with a scalpel. Then, an electric needle sears the edges and blood vessels, controlling bleeding and killing any remaining cancer cells.
- Surgical excision. For more advanced stages or larger areas, your dermatological surgeon removes the lesion and a margin of healthy tissue to best to ensure all cancer cells are removed.
- Mohs surgery. This surgery requires delicacy and patience. Your surgeon removes the skin layer by layer, examining each under a microscope until the layers are clear of cancer cells.
- Medication. Your doctor offers you medication in the form of topical ointments that directly target cancer cells. Other types of medication are taken orally or intravenously if there is a chance the cancer has spread.
As with any form of cancer, prevention remains an important step, whether you’re in a risk category or have fought incidents of carcinoma cells in the past. Prevention techniques that reduce your chance of basal cell carcinoma include:
- Avoiding the midday sun
- Wearing protective clothing outdoors
- Applying and reapplying a year-round sunscreen of SPF 15 or more
- Avoiding tanning beds
- Keeping vigilant regarding the condition of your skin and any changes that occur
Discuss skin care cancer screening with your Century Medical and Dental Center doctor during your next physical exam, especially if you’re at high risk. Annual monitoring, along with good self-care habits, help protect your skin and keep it healthy and disease-free. To diagnose a skin issue or schedule a screening, contact our doctor in Downtow Brooklyn today!