5 Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma You Should Never Ignore

Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancer. There are two types – basal cell carcinoma squamous cell carcinoma. The American Cancer Society estimates that around 4.3 million basal cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year, though the number of individuals affected is slightly less since some people have more than one.

What is basal cell carcinoma?

The American Academy of Dermatology refers to basal cell carcinoma as cancer cells that develop on skin that gets sun exposure, such as on the head, neck, or back of the hands. Though it is especially common on the face (the nose in particular), it can also appear on any part of the body, including the trunk, legs, and arms.

What are the causes?

Unlike many cancers, the cause of basal cell carcinoma is known. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning bed are proven to damage the DNA of skin cells. While the body does try to repair this damage, frequent and repeat exposure can inhibit your body from doing so, which causes cancer to develop.

While anyone can develop cancer skin cancer, there are factors that can increase your risk, such as:

  • Physical traits like fair and/or freckled skin, an inability to tan, blonde or red hair, and/or blue, green, or gray eyes.
  • Life experiences include spending a lot of time outdoors, either for work or leisure, without using sunscreen or protective clothing or frequent use of a tanning bed (currently or in the past).
  • Personal medical history
    • If you’ve had one basal cell carcinoma before, the risk of developing a second BCC increases by around 40%.
    • Taking one or more immune-suppressing drugs, such as those prescribed after receiving an organ transplant or to treat conditions like severe arthritis, lymphoma, or HIV.
    • Overexposure or long-term exposure to X-rays, such as patients who have received X-ray treatments for acne.
  • Family medical history, such as having a close blood relative that has had basal cell carcinoma, can also increase your risk.

Signs of basal cell carcinoma

There are many different types of BCC, so it can show up on the skin in a variety of ways – raised, smooth, crusted, shiny, or even waxy in appearance. With such a range, it can be difficult to determine when it’s time to see a doctor. To give you some guidance, here are five traits of basal cell carcinoma that you should never ignore:

  1. An open sore that won’t heal, bleeds, or oozes; or a sore that remains open for a few weeks only to heal up and bleed again;
  2. A reddish patch or irritated area that may or may not crust; These usually appear on the face, chest, arms, or legs. While they can itch or hurt, these patches don’t always cause discomfort;
  3. A shiny and waxy-looking bump or growth that appears pearly or clear; In most cases, these are pink, red, or white, but they can also be tan, black, or brown.
  4. A slightly elevated pink growth with a raised border and crusted indentation in the center; you may even see tiny blood vessels develop as it slowly enlarges;
  5. A white or yellow scar-like area may be a sign of an invasive BCC that is larger than its surface appearance lets on; The borders are often poorly defined, with the skin shiny and tightly drawn.

Contact Blue Ridge Dermatology

Most skin cancers do not cause death, but it is still important to seek treatment. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but left untreated, it can grow in width and depth, destroying skin, tissue, and bone in the process.

Take note of your normal pattern of moles, freckles, and blemishes, and get in the habit of checking your own skin for changes at least once a month. You should also regularly have your skin checked by a healthcare professional to increase the likelihood of early detection.

If you have any of the signs of basal cell carcinoma discussed above, are overdue, or have never had a skin exam, call (919) 781-1050 to schedule an appointment with Blue Ridge Dermatology today.

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