Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Though it typically occurs in older individuals, it is now occurring more often in young adults and children.


Basal cell carcinoma occurs most frequently on sun-exposed regions of the body, such as the face, lips, ears, neck, scalp, forearms, and backs of hands. Its appearance can take several different forms on your skin. Some warning signs to look for are an open sore, a reddish patch, a growth with an elevated border and a central indent, a bump or nodule, or a scar-like area.

Learn how to examine your skin

Risk factors of basal cell carcinoma

  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Fair skin, light hair and eye color
  • Burns, exposure to radiation, arsenical intoxication, or chronic dermatitis
  • A personal history of basal cell carcinoma

Potential consequences

Although this skin cancer rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other organs of the body, it can destroy surrounding tissue. Basal cell carcinomas grow slowly, so most are curable when caught and treated early.
People with 1 basal cell carcinoma have a greater risk of developing others.
Source: American Cancer Society, 2020

Treatment options for basal cell carcinoma

A dermatopathology specialist will assess sections of tissue from a biopsy of your skin. If it is found to be basal cell carcinoma, your doctor will discuss several treatment options with you. Your therapy will depend on the size, location, and type of basal cell carcinoma. Your age and general health will also be considered.

Your physician will discuss your treatment options, which may include:

  • Surgical removal (including Mohs micrographic surgery)
  • Electrosurgery
  • Radiation therapy

Preventing basal cell carcinoma

To protect yourself from basal cell carcinoma, the most important prevention measure you can take is to avoid overexposure to sunlight.

You should also inspect your entire body regularly for any skin changes, and routinely visit your physician for a skin examination.

Learn more about recommended prevention and protection techniques from Spot the Spot.

Get protection tips

Basal cell carcinoma resources


Review information on basal cell carcinoma or other skin disorders with your dermatologist. Download or print these brochures and bring them to your next appointment.

Open BCC brochure Open skin disorders brochure
Nonmelanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, affects more than 3 million Americans a year.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology Association

Other types of skin cancer

  • Also known as solar keratosis, AK is a precancerous lesion of the outer layer of skin.
  • Also known as atypical moles, these benign lesions look different than common moles.
  • This serious form of skin cancer affects the cells that produce melanin.
  • This major cancer arises from the outer layer of the skin and mucous membranes.
  • This common, non-cancerous lesion grows on the outer layer of the skin.