What is Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 December 2019
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Superficial basal cell carcinoma is a common, often treatable type of skin cancer. There are a number of different ways it can manifest itself, from raw, dry patches on an individual's chest or back to sores that will not heal or even changes in existing patches or lumps on the skin. Early detection is key to successful treatment, and a dermatologist can often diagnose any questionable spots on the skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most widespread types of cancer, and superficial basal cell carcinoma is the most treatable, least serious, and most common of these cancers. Estimates suggest that almost half of the population will suffer from some form of skin cancer in their lifetimes, and the chances increase in individuals over the age of 65. Those with pale skin and fair hair are most susceptible to developing skin cancer, and those exposed to sunlight for long periods of time are at highest risk. It is never too early to start preventative measures such as sunblock, hats, and protective eyewear.


Outward signs of the cancer vary from individual to individual. They may include rough, itchy patches of skin, sores covered with scabs that do not go away, lumps under the skin, small bumps that have blood vessels on the surface, or patches of shiny areas on the skin. While the face is the most common location for this type of cancer, it can be found anywhere on the body including those areas that are always sheltered from the sun by clothing. Superficial basal cell carcinoma can often be found manifesting itself on an individual's back or chest.

Typically diagnosed first by a dermatologist, superficial basal cell carcinoma is usually tested for by taking a biopsy or skin scraping in a process called a shave biopsy. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better, for there will be a smaller area to remove to keep the cancer from spreading. Superficial basal cell carcinoma is one of the most treatable forms of cancer if diagnosed early, and there are several methods that have upward of a 90% success rate.

Treatment commonly involves cutting away the afflicted area, though it depends largely on the size and location of the cancerous area as well as the individual's health and medical history. Larger tumors can be cut out, while some doctors prefer radiation therapy or even cryosurgery, the process of freezing the cells to kill and remove them. Sometimes a regimen of creams may be suggested.



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