Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Does skin cancer come back?

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Q. I recently had a basal cell carcinoma of the skin removed. Will it come back? Can I prevent a recurrence?

A. After being removed, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin does recur at some other spot on the body in about 40% of people. Routine skin examinations can find repeat cancers while they are still small. The exams should cover the entire body, including the top of your head, the backs of your ears, and the bottoms of your feet. BCC often appears as a waxy or pearly colored bump.

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, followed by squamous cell carcinoma, and then melanoma. Unlike the more deadly melanoma, BCC rarely spreads to other areas of the body. Death from BCC is extremely rare, but the cancer can be disfiguring if allowed to grow untreated.

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