Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and the least
dangerous—but it's far from a trivial matter, reports the May issue of
the Harvard Women's Health Watch. The good news is that basal
cell carcinoma rarely spreads (metastasizes), and it can easily be
treated and cured when discovered early.
cell skin cancers almost always occur in areas exposed to the sun: 80%
show up on the head and neck. The face is particularly vulnerable. The
most common form—nodular—usually shows up as a shiny bump and may bleed
easily. It often ulcerates and crusts over. Superficial basal cell
carcinoma forms a red, scaly, sometimes itchy spot and may have flecks
of dark pigment. It's often mistaken for a patch of dermatitis.
Morpheaform, a rarer and more aggressive type, has a waxy white or
yellow scarlike appearance and poorly defined borders.
cell carcinoma grows slowly and occurs mostly in people over age 55.
Sun exposure is the biggest risk factor. Treatment options include
freezing, surgical removal, radiation, and topical creams. Each has a
cure rate of 90% or more for first-time cancers.
To continue reading this article, you must login
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.