By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common skin cancers in America and Australia and incidence is also on the rise in the UK. This rise is thought to be attributable to an increase in exposure to UV rays from the sun.
If basal cell cancer is treated in a timely and appropriate manner, full recovery is likely. Sometimes, carcinomas reoccur after being successfully treated and removed for the first time but this is less likely in the case of smaller lesions.
Risk of metastasis
Unlike most other cancers, basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body and remains localized to the site of origin. However, it is considered a malignant cancer as it can still invade and destroy surrounding tissues.
The cancerous lesion may invade vital structures such as nerves and result in loss of sensation or loss of function in the affected area. In addition, those with basal cell carcinoma have a 50% likelihood of being diagnosed with another tumor in the five years following the first diagnosis.
Low risk and high risk cancers
Tumors can be categorized according to certain prognostic factors that influence patient outcomes. These factors include:
Large and more deep-rooted lesions have a worse prognosis than small and superficial lesions.
Tumors with a diffuse margin are usually less responsive to treatment than those with more clear-cut margins.
Rate and pattern of growth
The presence of more rapidly growing tumors and multiple tumors increases the risk of a poor treatment outcome.
Recurrent tumors and failure of initial therapy signifies a less positive patient outcome.
Suppressed immunity due to the use of immunosuppressants after organ transplant or to treat HIV for example, can lead to a poorer treatment outcome.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2013