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Skin Cancer - Basal Cell

What is a basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell tumors are the most common type of skin cancer. They typically occur on light exposed areas of the body, but can be found anywhere. There are three major types, each of which is described in detail below.


This type of basal cell carcinoma is usually reddish in color and has well-defined borders. Superficial spreading basal cell tumors usually start small and expand outwards horizontally. They can become quite large but their redness often causes them to be misdiagnosed as ringworm or dermatitis.

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The second and most commonly seen type of basal cell tumor is the nodular tumor. This type rises above the surface of the skin and is characterized by a defined portion much like a mushroom cap. Nodular basal cell tumors may reach considerable size and, if neglected, invade deeper structures. They can be seen on any part of the body, but occur most frequently on the face.

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The sclerosing basal cell tumor is perhaps the most destructive form of skin cancer. In its early stages it is unimpressive. Flush with the surface of the skin and with few color changes, it often goes unnoticed for a long time. Eventually the normal skin contour fades and the loss of tissue substance becomes apparent.

Finger-like projections extending into the surrounding tissue make a surgical cure difficult. The margins are poorly defined and if all of the infiltrating tendrils of tumor are not removed, recurrence of the tumor is likely. Areas around the nose, eye and ear are most commonly affected.

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Other Examples

While three main types of basal cell carcinoma are commonly found, many variations of these tumors also exist.

Click here for images of other variations of basal cell tumors

Skin Cancer Resources:

Skin Cancer Overview

Malignant Melanomas
Amelanotic Melanomas
Regression of Melanomas
Basal Cell Carcinomas
Squamous Cell Carcinomas

MelaFind® Melanoma Detection

Are you at Risk?

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is also our body's first line of defense. There are numerous factors which may increase your risk of skin cancer:

  • Genetics: The fair complexioned are at the greatest risk. Your risk is also increased if your parents, children, or siblings have had skin cancer.

  • Sun Exposure: Over the course of a lifetime, exposure to the sun can lead to a higher risk of skin cancer. Tanning beds and other "false sunlight" are no exception.

  • Immunosuppression: Immunosuppression therapy following organ transplants, chemotherapy, AIDS, and other treatments can put you at a significant risk for skin cancer.

  • Lifespan: Human life expectancy has increased from forty-two years in 1904 to close to eighty years today. As a result, the number of skin cancers being seen around the world is increasing.

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