Basal Cell Carcinoma

The problematic of this text is a part of more general article about skin cancer that I recommend to read as well. Basal cell carcinoma (sometimes called basalioma) is on of the most common skin tumors. Unlike melanoma, the cells of basal cell carcinoma are normal skin cells by origin and not pigment cells. It is a known fact that tumors in general divide into malignant and benign group. Basal cell carcinoma, however, falls into a special subtype called semi-malignant tumor.


The main cause of a tumor formation is similar to melanoma. It is a long-term excessive exposure to sunlight (UV radiation) or tanning, older age and probably genetics. Basal cell carcinoma may also occur in people, whose skin comes into chronic contact with arsenic (most common some in industrial jobs).


The tumor appears as a raised bump at first, later it changes into a painless ulcer that does not go away and rather slowly increases its size. It may or may not be colored, as well as the surrounding skin. For a layman, let’s say it is a slowly growing neck or face ulcer.

As stated above basal cell carcinoma is most commonly found on the skin of head and neck. The tumor is referred to as semi-malignant. This designation means that locally it invasively grows into surrounding tissues and damages everything in its path (including bones). This unpleasant local destructiveness is on the other hand balanced by a positive fact that basal cell carcinoma practically doesn’t create metastases. An exception may be a really long-time untreated basal cell carcinoma that may create some metastases in nearby lymph nodes but it is a really rare condition.


An examination by dermatologist is a preferable option. The dermatologist can evaluate the suspicious lesion including a possible use of dermatoscopy. Dermatoscope is a magnifying machine with its own source of light that makes skin lesions more visible and examinable. If in doubt, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be obtained for histological examination.


It is necessary to prevent overexposure to sun and also avoid frequent tanning. People working with arsenic substances should avoid direct skin contact with these materials.


Surgery is the best way of treatment. The tumor must be cut with a certain margin of healthy tissue. If the surgeon misses even a small portion of the tumor mass, it will reoccur. The earlier the tumor is discovered, the less cosmetic defect after a surgery remains.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources