Basal Cell Carcinoma:  What it Looks Like

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer worldwide, accounting for 80% of all diagnosed skin cancer cases.

Where Occurs
Basal cell carcinoma appears most often on sun-exposed areas, such as the as the face, scalp, ears, neck, chest, hands, back, and legs. Though rare, basal cell carcinoma can occur on skin that has been protected from the sun.

Warning Signs
As the photographs below show, basal cell carcinoma can take several forms:

  • Small, translucent growth with rolled edges that may be pigmented (brown) or have small blood vessels on the surface

  • Open sore that bleeds, heals, and then repeats the cycle

  • Cluster of slow-growing, shiny pink or red lesions that are slightly scaly and bleed easily

  • Flat or slightly depressed lesion that feels hard to the touch; may be white or yellow and have indistinct borders

  • Waxy scar that is skin-colored, white, or yellow

Diagnosed Cases of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Patients all have nodular basal cell carcinoma, a type of basal cell carcinoma
that appears as a well-defined growth with rolled edges. It may be pigmented
or translucent with visible blood vessels. Also known as cystic
basal cell carcinoma, it usually appears on the face.


An enlarged image of a basal cell carcinoma that appeared as a sore that never fully heals.



This elderly patient has superficial basal cell carcinoma, a type of basal cell carcinoma that usually appears as multiple, slow-growing, shiny pink or red, slightly scaly lesions that most often develop on the trunk and shoulders.

This poorly defined firm white area of skin shows a tumor that involves much of the patientís cheek.

This type of basal cell carcinoma is called sclerosing basal cell carcinoma, which typically appears as a thickened, skin-colored scar.


(Photos used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology
National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides)

Contact a Dermatologist
If you have a sore that does not heal or a lesion similar to any shown in these photographs, see a dermatologist. Early treatment by a dermatologist produces a cure rate of 95%.

Left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can become large and disfiguring as it destroys nearby tissue. While the cancer very rarely spreads, the surgery required to remove the tumor can result in the loss of an eye, ear, or nose.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

Basal cell carcinoma develops in more than 1 million people annually in the United States.

American Academy of Dermatology





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