Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. More than 2 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the United States each year. BCCs are becoming more common, perhaps because people are spending more time outdoors and the decrease in the ozone layer may be allowing more UV radiation to reach the earth’s surface. This type of skin cancer typically develops in areas that get prolonged sun exposure, such as the scalp, face, neck and upper trunk. People who have used tanning beds have a much higher risk of developing BCCs. They also tend to get this cancer earlier in life. BCCs tend to grow slowly over months to years, and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Although they grow slowly, treatment is important because they can grow wide and deep, with potential of destroying skin tissue, muscle and bone. BCCs may look like a sore that bleeds easily or won’t heal, oozes or crusts over, has a sunken center, or has visible blood vessels surrounding it.
The treatment for a BCC depends on its type, size and location and the number to be treated. We will consider many factors to determine which treatment will be best for you. There are several ways to treat BCC, including curettage, excision of the lesion, topical medicated creams, and Mohs micrographic surgery. Vismodegib is a new treatment for advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma, approved by the FDA in March 2012. Studies show that a person who develops BCC has a 40% risk of getting a second BCC within 5 years. Therefore, it is important to monitor and keep follow-up skin check appointments with your dermatologist. Be alert to non-healing sores on the skin, use sunscreen daily, and follow a good sun protection regimen.