Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting many people worldwide. For those who are concerned about their skin’s health, differentiating between BCC and other skin conditions can sometimes be challenging. Here, we will discuss how to distinguish BCC from other skin issues and the importance of consulting a board-certified dermatologist or skin cancer surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that originates from basal cells, which are a type of cell that produce new skin cells as old ones die off. They are located at the bottom layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCC can result if a basal cell develops a mutation in its DNA causing it to grow abnormally. It usually develops due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, primarily coming from the sun or tanning beds. BCC is typically slow growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. However, if left untreated, it can cause significant disfigurement and functional problems.
Early Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Some early signs of BCC include:
- A shiny, bump or nodule on the skin that can look translucent, pearly white, pink, or red. The bump may appear brown or glossy black on brown and Black skin.
- An open sore or growth that doesn’t heal or tends to bleed, ooze or scab over repeatedly.
- A flat, shiny scar-like area without any previous trauma in that location. It may be yellow, white, or waxy in color and may get bigger over time. The skin can appear taut with a poorly defined border.
- A red, pink, or irritated area, which may be slightly scaly, itchy, or uncomfortable
- A small growth, often pink or red, with slightly raised, rolled edges and an indentation in the center that may appear crusted. Tiny blood vessels may be visible on the surface over time, but can be more difficult to see on darker skin tones.
In some cases, BCCs may just resemble a mole or blemish on the surface and not seem like anything to worry about, but underneath, they can grow deep into the skin and cause damage to other tissues. It is essential to pay attention to any changes in your skin, especially those that don’t seem to heal or continue to worsen. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so visit a dermatologist if you see anything new, unusual, or changing on your skin.
How to Differentiate Basal Cell Carcinoma from Other Skin Conditions
There are several skin conditions that may resemble BCC, such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic keratosis. To determine whether a suspicious lesion might be BCC or another skin issue, you can consider the following:
- Location: BCC often occurs in sun-exposed areas like the face, neck, ears, and shoulders. If a lesion appears in an area that is usually covered from the sun, it might not be BCC.
- Appearance: BCC often has a shiny or pearly appearance, while other skin issues may have a different texture or color.
- Progression: BCC tends to grow slowly over time. If a lesion appears suddenly and heals quickly, it might not be BCC.
- Risk Factors: Although anyone can develop BCCs, some people are more at risk, such as individuals who have very fair skin or burn easily, have red or blond hair, have a history of skin cancer, or who have had chronic sun exposure.
Self-diagnosing can be risky. If you have a skin concern, it is crucial to consult with a dermatologist or a skin cancer surgeon as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis, as delaying treatment may make the condition worse and more difficult to treat effectively.
Mohs Surgery and the Role of a Mohs Surgeon
If left untreated BCCs can cause significant damage to skin and may even damage nerves, muscle, bone, and other tissues over time. In a small number of cases, BCC tumors can become advanced, spreading to other parts of the body, known as metastatic cancer, or penetrating deep into the skin and surrounding tissues (locally advanced).
A Mohs surgeon is a specialist trained in skin cancer treatment, particularly the Mohs surgery technique. Mohs surgery is a highly effective and precise method for treating basal cell carcinoma and other types of skin cancer. It involves the removal of thin layers of tissue, which are then examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells. This process is repeated until no cancer cells remain, resulting in the minimal removal of healthy tissue, less potential for scarring or disfigurement, and a high cure rate.
If BCC is suspected, it is highly recommended to consult with a Mohs surgeon who can determine if Mohs surgery is the appropriate treatment option for your specific case.
Early detection and treatment of basal cell carcinoma are crucial to preventing complications and ensuring the best possible outcome. Education on the early signs of BCC and differentiating it from other skin conditions is essential for everyone’s skin health. Remember to always stay vigilant and pay attention to any changes in your skin. Consult with a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options if you notice any suspicious lesions or have concerns about your skin’s health.
Basal Cell Carcinoma and Skin Cancer Specialist in Miami, FL
At Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, board-certified dermatologist T.J. Giuffrida, MD specializes in skin cancer and the diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant skin lesions. He is one of the few specialists in the South Florida area who are fellowship trained in Mohs micrographic surgery.
In addition to Mohs surgery, we perform skin cancer and full body screenings and offer a range of other non-surgical and surgical treatment options that are personalized to your needs. To learn more about our services, call us at (305) 461-2000 or contact us using our convenient online request form.