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Basal-cell carcinoma

What is it?

Basal cell carcinoma (or basal cell epithelioma) is a malignant tumor of the skin. It is the most common skin cancer, representing about 70% of all types. its occurrence is more common after 40 years of age, in people with light skin and its appearance is directly related to cumulative exposure of skin to solar radiation throughout life. Sunscreen is the best way to prevent its emergence.

Being a tumor of very slow growth and that rarely causes metastasis (does not send cells to other organs), is the skin cancer with best prognosis among all. However, if not treated at its earlier stage, it can be locally invasive and destroy the tissues surrounding it, affecting even the cartilage and bones.

Characteristics and symptoms

The vast majority of lesions appear on the face. The basal cell carcinoma can manifest in various forms but in its most typical presentation begins as small lesions, consistent, with pink or translucent appearance, smooth and shiny (pearly aspect), with fine blood vessels on the surface. The lesions grows gradually and slowly.

In its evolution it may ulcerate or bleed due to minor trauma (such as rubbing the bath towel) and may, thereby, have a dark crust (clotted blood) on its surface.

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Some lesions may be pigmented with the same characteristics described above but dark-colored (pigmented basal cell) or with dark spots (above photo). Some grow several inches in length but without reaching the deep tissues beneath it.

The most aggressive type is the tumor that invades deep tissues, with great destructive potential, especially those located on the nose or close to the eyes.

Other forms of presentation exists and, sometimes, can be of difficult resolution, like sclerodermiform basal cell carcinoma. Diagnosis should be done by a skilled professional. If you present a progressive growth lesion that forms crusts on its surface or bleed easily, you shoud make an appointment with a dermatologist.


The treatment of basal cell carcinoma is most often surgical, by electrosurgery (very small lesions) or conventional surgery. The tumor can also be treated by cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen. Some superficial types can be treated by photodynamic therapy or imiquimod.

Basal cell carcinoma: before and 2 months after surgery

Because basal cell carcinoma is a non metastatic tumor, early treatment leads to healing in most cases, what enhances the importance of seeking a dermatologist in case of a suspicious lesion.

Related articles

- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Malignant melanoma

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