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What Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer?


Updated April 15, 2009

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

photo © A.D.A.M.
Question: What Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer?
Answer: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for 75% to 80% of cases. Upwards of one million people in the United States are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year. Once found mostly in middle-age or older people, it is now also being seen in younger individuals.

Basal cell carcinoma usually begins on areas exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. It is a slow-growing cancer that rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but people with a history of BCC are at higher risk for getting a second BCC. If basal cell carcinoma is not treated, it can damage the surrounding tissue, including bone. Fortunately, available treatments, such as surgical removal or topical creams, are very effective, especially if the tumor is detected while it is small and thin.


"Detailed Guide: Skin Cancer - Basal and Squamous Cell" American Cancer Society. 10 April 2009.

"Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers" National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 10 April 2009.

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