What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in Canada and generally arises from cumulative lifetime ultraviolet (UV) exposure and damage to the skin, and as such is often found on areas of the skin most exposed to sunlight. The top layer of skin, the epidermis, is predominantly composed of basal cells, squamous cells, and melanocytes. Basal cells are small and round and have a critical role in maintaining the skin tissue; they are located at the bottom portion of the epidermis and are often referred to as “basement cells” for their foundational position and function. Basal cells are constantly replicating to produce new skin cells which push to the skin’s surface to renew the skin layer as dying cells shed off. This process is essential for skin maintenance, damage repair and wound healing. When basal cells grow out of control and become cancerous, they develop into BCC. This type of skin cancer generally grows relatively slowly and is usually very treatable when addressed early on. Prompt diagnosis and removal can prevent expansion as well as skin disfigurement. Although it is rare for BCC to spread outside of the skin, it is possible and thus prompt attention is always warranted.