Skin Cancer Home > Basal Cell Carcinoma

Ninety percent of all skin cancers in the United States are basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer typically appears on the head, face, neck, hands, or arms. It can often be removed completely during a biopsy, with no further treatment required. While basal cell carcinoma is curable in most cases, people who have had this type of skin cancer have a higher-than-average risk of developing other skin cancers.


What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

There are several types of skin cancer. The most common forms are basal cell carcinoma followed by squamous cell carcinoma. These forms of cancer are often referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancer to differentiate them from a third type of cancer called melanoma. Melanoma is less common, more deadly, and more likely to spread throughout the body.
Ninety percent of all skin cancers in the United States are basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer grows slowly and rarely spreads to other areas. Basal cell carcinoma can occur anywhere, but is typically found on the:
  • Head
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Hands
  • Arms.
Most basal cell carcinomas can be cured. However, people with this type of skin cancer have a higher risk for developing other skin cancers.

Understanding the Skin

The skin is the body's largest organ. The skin:
  • Protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection
  • Helps control body temperature
  • Stores water, fat, and vitamin D.
The skin has several layers, but the two main layers are the epidermis (the upper or outer layer) and the dermis (the lower or inner layer).
Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells, including:
  • Squamous cells: Thin, flat cells that form the top layer of the epidermis.
  • Basal cells: Round cells located under the squamous cells.
  • Melanocytes: Found in the lower part of the epidermis, these cells make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes make more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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