Also known as a rodent ulcer, these shiny, rounded lumps are a cancer of the deeper (basal) layers of the skin. Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) are caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight, and occur most commonly on the face and back. They are not as serious as the more superficial squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), but occur at an earlier age than SCCs, although rarely before 25 years.
BCCs often change in size and colour. They usually appear as a small skin lump that has a pearly edge with fine blood vessels running across the edge, or they may present as an ulcer that fails to heal and has a pearly, rounded edge.
Whenever a BCC is suspected, it should be removed surgically. The specimen is then sent to a pathologist for examination to ensure that the diagnosis is correct, and that all the tumour has been removed. Alternate treatments in more difficult areas include anticancer creams, irradiation and diathermy.
If correctly treated, they can be completely healed, but if left until large, significant plastic surgery may be necessary as they will slowly invade deeper tissues, and after many years rarely may cause death.