Definition of Cancer, basal cell

Cancer, basal cell: The most common type of skin cancer, a disease in which the cancer cells resemble the basal cells of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin.

Basal cell carcinomas usually appear as the classic "sore that doesn't heal." A bleeding or scabbing sore that seems to get somewhat better, then recurs and starts to bleed, may be a basal cell carcinoma.

Most basal cell carcinomas are on the face and neck where the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, a fair number show up on parts of the body such as the abdomen, leg, and scalp exposed to little or no sunlight.

Basal cell carcinomas typically are locally invasive. They tend to burrow in locally and not metastasize (spread) to distant locations.

Small basal cell carcinomas can be removed by being scraped and burned (electrodesiccation and curettage). Larger basal cells can be removed by surgery. Basal cell carcinomas on the scalp, ears, and sides of the nose, as well as those which have come back after being treated, are treated best by Mohs surgery.

Having basal cell carcinoma means an increased risk of developing another. Prudent sun precautions and annual skin checkups by the doctor are advisable.


Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

Search MedTerms:


Back to MedTerms online medical dictionary A-Z List
Pill Identifier Tool

Need help identifying pills and medications?
Use the pill finder tool on RxList.