Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as basal-cell cancer, is the most common type of skin cancer. It often appears as a painless raised area of skin, which may be shiny with small blood vessels running over it. It may also present as a raised area with ulceration. Basal-cell cancer grows slowly and can damage the tissue around it, but it is unlikely to spread to distant areas or result in death.
Risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet light, having lighter skin, radiation therapy, long-term exposure to arsenic and poor immune-system function. Exposure to UV light during childhood is particularly harmful. Tanning beds have become another common source of ultraviolet radiation.
Basal-cell cancer accounts for at least 32% of all cancers globally. Of skin cancers other than melanoma, about 80% are basal-cell cancers. In the United States, about 35% of white males and 25% of white females are affected by BCC at some point in their lives.
Treatment is typically by surgical removal. This can be by simple excision if the cancer is small; otherwise, Mohs surgery is generally recommended. Other options include electrodesiccation and curettage, cryosurgery, topical chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, laser surgery or the use of imiquimod, a topical immune-activating medication. In the rare cases in which distant spread has occurred, chemotherapy or targeted therapy may be used.
Prognosis is excellent if the appropriate method of treatment is used in early primary basal-cell cancers. Recurrent cancers are much harder to cure, with a higher recurrent rate with any methods of treatment. Although basal-cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes, it grows locally with invasion and destruction of local tissues. The cancer can impinge on vital structures like nerves and result in loss of sensation or loss of function or rarely death. The vast majority of cases can be successfully treated before serious complications occur. The recurrence rate for the above treatment options ranges from 50 percent to 1 percent or less.
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