In most cases, basal cell carcinoma symptoms appear as a skin lesion. This type of skin cancer forms when the basal cells, found at the bottom of the epidermis, are affected. This part of the body is responsible for producing skin, pushing new cells toward the surface of the epidermis. When the basal cell’s DNA mutates, it multiplies rapidly, continuing to grow when it would otherwise die. The accumulated cells can form a cancerous mass that appears on the skin.


As with most types of skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma is often caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, commercial tanning lamps, and tanning beds. However, other factors are known to contribute to this cancer’s development, including having fair skin, experience with radiation therapy, a personal history of skin cancer, exposure to arsenic, immune-suppressing drugs, and certain genetic conditions, such as Gorlin-Goltz syndrome. This form of skin cancer is also more likely to appear in older adults.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in the United States, accounting for 80% of all nonmelanoma skin cancers, but it is also the least dangerous. Metastasis, or spread, occurs in less than 1% of cases. Still, if you think you are experiencing basal cell carcinoma symptoms, it is important to visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.


Detecting Basal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma can manifest as several types of lesions. They typically develop on the most sun-exposed parts of the body, like the head and neck. However, basal cell carcinoma symptoms are known to appear on parts of the body that are typically protected from the sun’s rays. Below are some important characteristics to watch out for.

  • The most common basal cell carcinoma symptoms are pearly white, skin-colored, or pink bumps that are relatively translucent. In this case, small blood vessels may be visible. This type of basal cell carcinoma often appears on the face and ears and is known to rupture, bleed, and scab.
  • Flat, scaly, and reddish patches may indicate basal cell carcinoma, especially on the back and chest. If left untreated, these can grow to be very large.
  • Brown, black, and/or blue lesions are known to appear on the face and neck. These typically have a slightly raised but translucent border.
  • Waxy, white, scary-like lesions are the least common and hardest to identify. Known as morpheaform basal cell carcinoma, they do not have a clearly defined border.

The above descriptions are wide-ranging, and sometimes basal cell carcinoma symptoms will manifest in a way unique to your body and skin. In some people, this cancer may resemble something as routine as psoriasis or eczema. If you notice anything strange changing on your skin, contact your doctor immediately.

If you’re performing an at-home skin check, spend time examining your entire body, not just your face and neck. While basal cell carcinoma most frequently appears on the parts of the body exposed to sunlight, it is known to develop in other, more protected areas. It is also important to both check for new lesions and monitor existing bumps. While basal cell carcinomas may not change much in color over time, they do grow. This is an important piece of information to bring to a dermatologist.

Schedule an Appointment

Basal cell carcinoma is the least dangerous type of skin cancer. It grows slowly and rarely spreads beyond its original site. But while metastasis is rare with this form of cancer, it is not impossible. Nearby lymph nodes, the bones, and the lungs are susceptible to developing cancer from basal cell carcinoma spread. Even though this form of cancer can seem harmless, without basal cell carcinoma detection, it could be fatal.

If there is any doubt about whether a lesion or blemish could be cancer, schedule an appointment with our Mt. Vernon medical dermatology clinic. Early diagnosis and swift treatment are key to identifying and ridding the body of cancer.