What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. It arises in the cells that form deep in your skin and replace old ones as they die off.


Most European skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. They’re almost certainly related to sun exposure. Fair-skinned people are most at risk. It’s generally good practice to avoid burning. Sunbeds are a bad idea. 

It’s also wise to get to know your skin, so you’re aware of changes. You and a family member can make monthly checks. Watch for skin marks that change, or don’t heal, or just look strange to you. 


A basal cell carcinoma can take many forms, like a slightly translucent little bump, or a dark lesion, or a flat, scaly, red patch, or even something that looks like a scar. Most of what’s going on in a basal cell carcinoma is concealed by your outer layer of skin, so it might not look like much. Because it tends to erode surrounding tissue, it’s sometimes spoken of as a ‘rodent ulcer.’ 


If the basal cell carcinoma is superficial, your doctor will probably offer a topical cream that counters tumor growth, or will simply remove it. It’s no more traumatic than losing a wart. 

If the lesion is more developed, the usual procedure is ‘Mohs micrographic surgery,’ which is an in-office way of removing tiny bits of the lesion at a time, examining each for any cancerous cells, and stopping when they’re all gone. It’s function is to stay gentle while making sure the whole lesion is cleared. 


Basal cell carcinoma is very treatable, and almost never a danger to life.

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