Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in humans. It is referred to as a "non-melanoma skin cancer". In fact, it is the most common cancer overall, vastly outnumbering lung, breast, prostate and testicular cancers. It is caused by intense intermittent sun exposure, like those lovely vacations we all enjoyed where we got that bad sun burn. The most common place for basal cell carcinoma is the nose and cheeks. It starts as small "pimple" bump that unlike a normal pimple, lasts several weeks to months and continues to grow and sometimes bleeds. It is shiny, and glistens like a pearl. There are usually large spider-like red vessels within it, hence the frequent bleeding.
Luckily, basal cell carcinoma very rarely kills anyone and does not spread to other parts of the body unless neglected for many years. It can be very disfiguring especially on the face so early detection is key in getting a high cure rate and excellent cosmetic result. A biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment depends on the size, location, and biopsy results but usually includes a minor outpatient surgical procedure. A full body skin check every year is recommended for screening however more frequent visits may be required the first few years after diagnosis. Most patients will experience another basal cell carcinoma, on average every 3-4 years, so close follow up with your dermatologist is important for the remainder of your life. You can prevent basal cell carcinoma by wearing 30 SPF sunscreen, hats, sun protective clothing, and sitting in the shade. Recent exciting evidence is coming out about taking Nicatinamide (an over the counter, natural treatment) to decrease the risk of basal cell carcinoma.