Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon
    Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon

      BASAL CELL CARCINOMA

      What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

      Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the commonest human cancer, formerly known as “rodent ulcers”. It is a non-melanoma skin cancer and almost never metastasises (spreads to other parts of the body)

      What causes basal cell carcinoma?

      Ultraviolet (UV) light is the main risk factor and its effects appear to be cumulative. As a result, most BCCs appear on exposed areas, i.e. the face, scalp, neck, ears and décolletage.
      Fair-skinned people who readily sunburn are most at risk as they have little UV protective melanin in their skin. Additional risk factors include use of sunbeds, occupational or leisure-time spent predominantly outdoors or living in a hot climate.

      BCCs can present as a nodule, ulcer or reddish plaque on the skin. As they grow they can crust and bleed with minor trauma. They can sometimes appear to shrink or disappear temporarily but always grow back.

      Treatment

      BCC is almost always curable if treated in a timely fashion. Surgical removal is the treatment usually recommended. If the BCC is large, recurrent after previous treatment or situated in a functionally or cosmetically sensitive area such as the eyelids, a specialist technique known as Mohs Micrographic surgery may be indicated.

      Other treatment modalities include radiotherapy, cryotherapy and photodynamic therapy and chemotherapy creams but these are not usually recommended around the eye because of potential damage to the eye and/or eyelid structures.

      Prevention of Basal Cell Carcinoma

      UV damage to the skin can be avoided by wearing a hat and sunglasses. In addition, using a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection (e.g. iS Extreme Protect SPF 30) to your face, neck, and décolletage 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours and additionally after swimming to towel-dried skin.

      Children are especially susceptible to sun damage so particular care should be taken to protect their skin.

      Avoiding sun exposure may lead to reduced vitamin D levels and supplementation should be considered. Vitamin D3 10-25micrograms (400-1000u) is readily available from supermarkets. If unsure, your GP can measure your vitamin D levels and may be able to specify the level of supplementation needed, if any. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, oily fish, meat, fortified cereals and spreads.

      Further information on BCC can be found at bad.org.uk

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