What is Basal Cell Carcinoma? Its Types, Causes, & Treatment


What is Basal Cell Carcinoma? Its Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting millions of people worldwide each year. Understanding its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for early detection and effective management. This article aims to provide comprehensive information on Basal Cell Carcinoma, ensuring you are well-informed about this prevalent skin condition.

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Basal Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in the basal cells, which are found in the deepest layer of the epidermis. Unlike other forms of skin cancer, BCC rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body, making it less dangerous if detected and treated early. However, it can cause significant local damage if left untreated.

What Are The Types of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

There are several types of Basal Cell Carcinoma, each with distinct characteristics:

#01. Nodular BCC

Nodular BCC is the most common type, often appearing as a shiny, pearly nodule. It typically has a central depression or ulceration and may bleed easily. This type is most frequently found on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, and back.

  • Appearance: This is the most common type, appearing as a shiny, pearly nodule, often with small blood vessels (telangiectasia) visible on the surface.
  • Location: Typically found on the face, neck, and back.

#02. Superficial BCC

This type appears as a red, scaly, and sometimes crusted patch on the skin, resembling eczema or psoriasis. Superficial BCC is often found on the trunk and limbs and is more common in younger individuals.

  • Appearance: Presents as a red, scaly patch, often mistaken for eczema or psoriasis.
  • Location: Commonly occurs on the trunk and limbs.

#03. Morpheaform (Sclerosing) BCC

Also known as sclerosing BCC, this type presents as a waxy, scar-like lesion with poorly defined borders. It can infiltrate surrounding tissues, making it more challenging to treat.

  • Appearance: Looks like a scar or waxy, white plaque, making it harder to diagnose visually.
  • Location: Often found on the face and neck.

#04. Pigmented BCC

Pigmented BCC appears as a dark brown, blue, or black lesion. It often resembles nodular BCC in structure, featuring a shiny, pearly nodule with possible small blood vessels (telangiectasias) on the surface. The pigmentation can make it look similar to melanoma, another type of skin cancer.

  • Appearance: Contains dark pigment, making it resemble melanoma.
  • Location: Can appear anywhere on the body.

#05. Basosquamous Carcinoma

Basosquamous Carcinoma (BSC) is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer that exhibits characteristics of both basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BSC often appears as a nodular or ulcerated lesion with features that overlap those of BCC and SCC. It may present as a firm, skin-colored or reddish nodule with a smooth or ulcerated surface.

  • Appearance: Exhibits features of both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, often more aggressive.
  • Location: Varies, can be found on any part of the body.

#06. Micronodular BCC:

Micronodular Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a subtype of basal cell carcinoma characterized by its small nodular formations and its tendency to be more invasive compared to other BCC subtypes.

  • Appearance: Small nodules that can merge to form a larger lesion. It has a less aggressive appearance than infiltrative BCC but can still be more challenging to treat due to its tendency to spread into surrounding tissues.
  • Location: Often occurs on the head and neck.

#07. Basosquamous (Metatypical) BCC:

Basosquamous carcinoma, also known as metatypical basal cell carcinoma, is a rare and more aggressive variant of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) that exhibits features of both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

  • Appearance: Features of both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, making it more aggressive and with a higher potential for metastasis.
  • Location: Typically found on sun-exposed areas such as the face and neck.


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What Are The Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma?

The primary cause of Basal Cell Carcinoma is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Other contributing factors include:

  • Genetics: Family history of skin cancer increases risk.
  • Fair Skin: Individuals with fair skin, light hair, and light eyes are more susceptible.
  • Age: The risk increases with age, as the cumulative exposure to UV radiation adds up.
  • Radiation Therapy: Previous radiation treatment can increase the likelihood of developing BCC.
  • Immunosuppression: People with weakened immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients, have a higher risk.

Each subtype of BCC has specific treatment considerations. While nodular and superficial BCCs are often treated with simple excision or topical therapies, more aggressive forms like morpheaform and infiltrative BCCs may require more extensive surgical procedures or specialized treatments such as Mohs micrographic surgery. Regular skin checks and early diagnosis are crucial for effective management of all types of BCC.

How Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Make You Feel?

Recognizing the symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma is essential for early diagnosis and treatment. Common signs include:

  • Open Sores: Non-healing sores that bleed, ooze, or crust.
  • Red Patches: Persistent red or irritated areas, often on the face, chest, shoulders, arms, or legs.
  • Shiny Bumps: Pearly or waxy bumps, sometimes with visible blood vessels.
  • Pink Growths: Elevated growths with a rolled border and central indentation.
  • Scar-like Areas: White, yellow, or waxy areas resembling a scar without a history of injury.

How Do You Confirm a Diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Early detection of Basal Cell Carcinoma can prevent complications and improve outcomes. Diagnostic methods include:

  • Physical Examination: Dermatologists often identify BCC through visual inspection.
  • Biopsy: A sample of the suspicious area is taken and examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Dermatoscopy: A specialized device used to examine the skin more closely and identify cancerous features.

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How Can You Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Treatment options for Basal Cell Carcinoma vary based on the type, size, location, and depth of the tumor. Common treatments include:

  1. Surgical Excision
    • Procedure: The tumor is surgically removed along with a margin of healthy tissue.
    • Effectiveness: High cure rate, commonly used for larger or deeper BCCs.
  2. Mohs Micrographic Surgery
    • Procedure: Tumor is removed layer by layer, with each layer examined under a microscope until no cancer cells remain.
    • Effectiveness: Offers the highest cure rate, especially for recurrent or high-risk BCCs.
  3. Cryotherapy
    • Procedure: The tumor is frozen with liquid nitrogen, causing the cancerous cells to die.
    • Effectiveness: Suitable for superficial BCCs, less effective for deeper tumors.
  4. Topical Treatments
    • Medications: Creams or ointments containing anti-cancer agents like imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil.
    • Effectiveness: Best for superficial BCCs, less invasive.
  5. Radiation Therapy
    • Procedure: High-energy beams are used to destroy cancer cells.
    • Effectiveness: An option for patients who cannot undergo surgery, or for tumors in difficult-to-treat locations.
  6. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
    • Procedure: A light-sensitive drug is applied to the skin, followed by exposure to a specific wavelength of light to destroy cancer cells.
    • Effectiveness: Effective for superficial BCCs, minimal scarring.
  7. Oral Medications
    • Drugs: Vismodegib or sonidegib, used for advanced BCCs that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation.
    • Effectiveness: Targets molecular pathways involved in BCC growth.

How to Prevent the Recurrence of Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of developing Basal Cell Carcinoma:

  • Sun Protection: Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and avoid peak sun hours.
  • Avoid Tanning Beds: Refrain from using artificial tanning devices.
  • Regular Skin Checks: Perform self-examinations and schedule regular dermatologist visits for professional skin assessments.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy lifestyle to support overall skin health and immune function.

Basal Cell Carcinoma Natural Treatments or Home Remedies

While medical treatment is crucial for effectively managing basal cell carcinoma (BCC), some individuals may be interested in natural treatments or home remedies to support their skin health. It’s important to note that natural treatments should not replace conventional medical care, and any alternative approaches should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Here are some natural treatments and home remedies that may support skin health and overall well-being:

Natural Treatments and Home Remedies:

  1. Green Tea Extract:
    • Properties: Contains polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Usage: Green tea extract can be applied topically or consumed as a beverage to support overall skin health.
  2. Curcumin (Turmeric):
    • Properties: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
    • Usage: Curcumin can be applied topically in the form of a paste made from turmeric powder and water or oil. It can also be taken orally as a supplement or in food.
  3. Aloe Vera:
    • Properties: Anti-inflammatory, soothing, and moisturizing effects.
    • Usage: Apply pure aloe vera gel directly to the affected area to soothe the skin and promote healing.
  4. Vitamin D:
    • Properties: Essential for skin health and immune function.
    • Usage: Ensure adequate vitamin D levels through sun exposure, diet, or supplements. Topical vitamin D analogs are also used in some skin treatments.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar:
    • Properties: Antimicrobial and potential anti-inflammatory effects.
    • Usage: Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and apply it to the skin using a cotton ball. Use cautiously as it can cause irritation.
  6. Essential Oils:
    • Tea Tree Oil: Known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply to the skin.
    • Frankincense Oil: May support skin health and healing. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply to the skin.
  7. Dietary Considerations:
    • Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, can support overall skin health.
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts, these can reduce inflammation and support skin health.
  8. Herbal Remedies:
    • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): Sometimes used in salves for skin lesions. Use with caution and under professional guidance due to potential side effects.
    • Echinacea: May boost the immune system. Can be taken as a supplement or tea.


Basal Cell Carcinoma is a common yet manageable form of skin cancer when detected early. Understanding its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options empowers individuals to seek prompt medical attention and adopt preventive measures. With advancements in medical treatments and increasing awareness, the prognosis for Basal Cell Carcinoma remains favorable, highlighting the importance of ongoing vigilance and proactive skin care.


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