Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma,

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a slow-growing, non-melanoma type of skin cancer.  BCC is the most common form of cancer and it is estimated that 1 in 3 Caucasians will develop BCC in their life-time.  Basal cell carcinomas begin by slowly growing in the top layer of the skin.  Growth of BCCs is painless and often occurs on areas of skin that have been regularly exposed to sunlight or other UV radiation.

Metastatic spreading of BCC occurs when the cancer spreads to another non-adjoining organ or part of the body.  Metastasizing is an extremely rare occurrence.  Locally advanced basal cell carcinomas are those that spread only to nearby tissues.

Common symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A skin bump or growth that is waxy or pearly and discoloured (though it may look only slightly different than your normal skin)
  • Skin sores that bleed easily, do not heal, or have a sunken middle area
  • Irregular blood vessels in the affected area

In general, treatment for basal cell carcinomas often consists of surgical removal of each carcinoma.  However, surgical removal can be painful and can cause significant disfigurement and scarring of the area.  In addition, large numbers of BCCs, especially those in sensitive locations such as the mouth, nose, eyelids, and ears, are not practical for excision.  Radiotherapy treatment and some tropical skin creams are also available for treatment.

Nevoid Basal Cell Carcinoma Syndrome (Gorlin Syndrome)

Nevoid Basal Cell Carcinoma Syndrome (NBCCS) (also known as Gorlin syndrome) is a rare hereditary condition (passed down through families) that involves the skin, nervous system, eyes, and bones.  It is characterized by multiple basal cell skin cancers. Other common findings include jaw cysts, pits on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, calcium deposits in soft tissues, and skeletal (bone) changes.

Although it is a genetic condition, as many as 30% of people with NBCCS do not have any family history of the condition and instead have a new mutation in the gene (PTCH gene) that causes the syndrome.

Multiple basal cell skin cancers and jaw cysts (odontogenic keratocysts) are the most common features of NBCCS and are present in about 90% of people who have the condition.  Other common signs and symptoms of Gorlin Syndrome include:

  • Irregularly-shaped palmar and/or plantar pits
  • Abnormally shaped bones of the ribs or spine
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Medulloblastoma in childhood
  • Extra fingers or toes

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