Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.

  • What is Basal Cell Skin Cancer?

    Basal Cell Skin Cancer, or basal cell carcinoma, is the most common type of Skin Cancer: about 80% of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. It is also the most common type of cancer in humans.

    Basal cell carcinomas usually develop on sun-exposed areas (especially the head and neck) and tend to grow slowly. It’s very rare for a basal cell cancer to spread to other parts of the body, but if left untreated it can grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin.

  • Basal cell skin cancer symptoms

    Basal Cell Skin Cancers usually appear as flat, firm, pale areas or small, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that may bleed after a minor injury such as shaving. They may have one or more abnormal blood vessels, a lower area in their centre, and blue, brown, or black areas. Large basal cell skin cancers may have oozing or crusted areas.

  • Basal cell skin cancer treatment

    Based on the stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options may include:


    Different types of surgery can be used to treat basal cell cancers. Excision by butting out the tumour and a small margin of normal skin is a common treatment. Curettage and electrodesiccation are also common surgical treatment options but might need to be repeated to ensure all of the cancer has been removed.

    Mohs surgery, which is microscopically controlled, has the best cure rate for Basal Cell Skin Cancer, especially for large tumours or if the tumour’s edges are not well-defined. However, it’s also usually more complex, time-consuming, and expensive than other methods.

    Radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy is often a good option for treating patients who might not be able to tolerate surgery or for treating Basal Cell Skin Cancers found on areas that can be hard to treat surgically. It’s also sometimes used after surgery if it’s not clear that all of the cancer has been removed.


    Cryosurgery (the application of extreme cold to remove tissue through methods such as liquid nitrogen), can be used for some small basal cell carcinomas but is not usually recommended for larger tumours or those on certain parts of the nose, ears, eyelids, scalp, or legs. Side effects can include drainage of fluid from the site for 4-6 weeks and slow healing.

    Targeted therapy for advanced Basal Cell Cancers

    In rare cases where Basal Cell Skin Cancer spreads to other parts of the body or can’t be cured with surgery or radiation therapy, a targeted drug can often shrink or slow the growth of the cancer.

    Fortunately, most basal cell cancers can be cured with fairly minor surgery or other types of local treatments.

    After treatment, basal cell cancer can recur in the same place on the skin. People who have had basal cell cancers are also more likely to get new ones elsewhere on the skin.

  • How serious is basal cell skin cancer?

    Basal cell skin cancer is a common and curable type of skin cancer and considered to be minimial dangerous type if treated properly.  

  • What does basal cell skin cancer look like?

    Basal cell skin cancer can be identified by the a small change in the skin appearance. Usually a red patch or a small bump will begin to grow and does not heal or the wound gets worst. The sore will often bleed and can be in the form of a mole, a scar or dermatitis.  

  • Is basal cell carcinoma skin cancer?

    Yes, basal cell carinoma is a common type of skin cancer, it is broken down into 3 subtypes;  

    • Superficial: the cancerous area is spread wide on the top layer fo the skin. 
    • Nodular: the cancerous area is raised and looked like a lump on top the skin.  
    • Infiltrating: the cancerous area is thin and in small clusters making them difficult to detect.  
  • Is basal cell skin cancer life threatening?

    Most basal cell carcinomas are not life threatening if detected early and treated. In rare cases, advanced stages can be fatal if left untreated.  

  • What happens if you don’t remove basal cell skin cancer?

    Basal cell is slow growing, however, it is still recommended that the cancer is removed. If left untreated the cancer will continue to grow and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. 

  • Can basal cell skin cancer come back?

    Recurrence of basal cell carcinomas typically occurs within the first two – three years post treatment. Research shows the scalp and nose are the most common areas for recurrence.  

  • What causes basal cell skin cancer?

    Prolonged exposire to UV rays is found to be the main cause of basal cell carcinoma as it causes the skin cells to change over time. Those most at risk include, individuals with a fair and freckley skin. 

  • Can basal cell skin cancer spread?

    In rare cases, late stages or metastatic basal cell carcinoma can spread to the lymph nodes.

Cancer statistics

  • 1 in 7

    Australians will pass away from cancer by the age of 85

  • Cancer

    is the leading cause of death of children by disease

  • 2 in 5

    Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85

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Cancer in Australia 2017, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

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