Basal cell cancer is the commonest and least deadly form of skin cancer. It almost never spreads (metastasizes), but if untreated can continue to grow locally and become very destructive, rarely even fatal. It is mostly caused by exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, tanning booths or other forms of radiation such as x-rays. Persons with light colored skin, light colored eyes or fair hair are at greater risk. UV radiation also greatly increases the risk of the much more deadly skin cancers–squamous cell cancer and melanoma.
The tumors can look like small sores that don’t heal, grow slowly, can bleed easily, may be crusted and might have a depression at their center. They are commonly treated with excision, sometimes using the Mohs method, whereby the tumor is excised little by little and examined immediately under the microscope until the margins of the tumor are clear of malignancy. Other modalities of treatment include scraping (curettage) electrocautery, freezing and topical medication. The extensive use of sunscreen can prevent the problem and is strongly advised.