Skin Cancer: Basal & Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It’s also the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Every year, millions of people learn that they have BCC.

Nodular Basal Cell Carcinoma

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 BCC 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 wide and deep, destroying skin tissue and bone.


Basal cell carcinoma: Signs and symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) 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:

Look at your skin
Look at your skin: If you see anything growing or changing, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Image used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;55:747.

BCCs may look like a sore that:


What causes BCC?

Unlike many cancers, the cause of BCC is well known:

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 and skin cancer develops.


Basal cell carcinoma: Treatment

If the biopsy report states that you have BCC, your dermatologist will consider many factors to determine which treatment will be best for you. There are several ways to treat BCC:

Excision: This is a surgical procedure that your dermatologist can perform in the office. It involves numbing the area to be treated and cutting out any remaining tumor plus a small margin skin around the tumor.

Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED&C): A simple procedure in which your dermatologist numbs the area to be treated then scapes away the remaining cancer cells.  Sometimes electric cautery is used to assist in removing the remaining cancer cells.

Mohs surgery: Named for the doctor who developed this technique, Mohs (pronounced “moes”) surgery is a specialized tissue sparing surgery used to remove some skin cancers.

Radiation: This treatment usually is reserved for skin cancers that cannot be removed surgically, or when surgery may not be the best choice.

Medicated creams: Creams that contain a medication, such as imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil, can be used to treat early superficial forms of BCC.

Pills: While extremely rare, there are reports of BCC spreading to other parts of the body. Patients who have BCC that spreads may be prescribed an oral medication.

Outcome

Nearly all basal cell cancer can be cured, especially when the cancer is found and treated early.


Basal cell carcinoma: Tips for prevention

Protect your skin from the sun and indoor tanning.

Related resources:


Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Approximately 700,000 – 1,000,000 new SCC are diagnosed in the United States each year.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This skin cancer tends to develop on skin that has been exposed to the sun for years. It is most frequently seen on sun-exposed areas, such as the head, neck, and back of the hands.

It is possible to get SCC on any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth, lips, and genitals.

SCC can spread to other parts of the body. With early diagnosis and treatment, SCC is highly curable. 


Squamous cell carcinoma: Signs and symptoms

Bowens Disease
This reddish crusted patch is an early stage of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

SCC can begin as a pre-cancerous growth.

Some SCC begin in a pre-cancerous growth called an actinic keratosis, or AK. In adults 40 and older, it is believed that about 40 to 60 percent of SCCs begin in an AK. Signs and symptoms of an AK include:


Squamous cell carcinoma: Causes

This skin cancer is most common in fair-skinned people who have spent years in the sun, though people of all skin types can develop SCC.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma: The growth on this man’s lower lip grew for years before he sought treatment.

Most SCC is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. Other causes include:


Squamous cell carcinoma: Treatment

If the biopsy report states that you have SCC, your dermatologist will consider many factors to determine which treatment will be best for you. There are several ways to treat SCC:

Excision: This is a surgical procedure that your dermatologist can perform in the office. It involves numbing the area to be treated and cutting out any remaining tumor plus a small margin skin around the tumor.

Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED&C): A simple procedure in which your dermatologist numbs the area to be treated then scapes away the remaining cancer cells.  Sometimes electric cautery is used to assist in removing the remaining cancer cells.

Mohs surgery: Named for the doctor who developed this technique, Mohs (pronounced “moes”) surgery is a specialized tissue sparing surgery used to remove some skin cancers.

Radiation: This treatment usually is reserved for skin cancers that cannot be removed surgically, or when surgery may not be the best choice.

Chemotherapy cream: Creams that contain either imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil can be used to treat early superficial forms of SCC.

Laser treatment:  Lasers can be used to remove certain types of SCC.

Outcome: Most people diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) have a very good prognosis. When caught early and removed, this skin cancer has an excellent cure rate.


Squamous cell carcinoma: Tips for prevention

Protect your skin from the sun and indoor tanning.

Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk of developing SCC in your mouth.

Relates resources:


Basal Cell Carcinoma References:


Squamous Cell Carcinoma References:

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