Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is also known as BCC or rodent ulcer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in humans. Luckily, it is very rarely a threat to life.

BCC typically affects adults of fair complexion who have had a lot of sun exposure, or repeated episodes of sunburn. Although more common in the elderly, sun-loving South Africans frequently develop them in their early 40s and sometimes younger. The tendency to develop BCC may be inherited, and is a particular problem for families with basal cell naevus syndrome (Gorlin’s). BCCs can vary in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres in diameter. They usually grow slowly over months or years.

Types of basal cell carcinoma

  • Nodular BCC , also known as cystic BCC, is often found on the face. It presents as a small translucent growth, often with rolled edges. It may be pigmented (brown), or there may be small blood vessels on the surface. It may become an open sore (rodent ulcer), or bleed spontaneously then seem to heal over. Sometimes BCCs are difficult to distinguish from melanoma
  • Superficial BCCs are often multiple, most often on the upper trunk or shoulders. The patches are slowly growing, shiny pink or red and slightly scaly. They bleed easily.

Morphoeic BCC, also known as sclerosing BCC, is the most difficult to diagnose, and is prone to recur after apparently adequate surgery. They look like a skin-coloured, rather waxy, thickened scar.

  • Protect your skin from the sun at all times.
  • Arrange a complete skin examination from time to time.
  • Ask your dermatologist or GP to check any persisting or growing lumps or sores