The Differences Between Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Although basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are the two most common types of skin cancer in the United States, they’re also highly treatable.

BCC and SCC are part of the carcinomas group, which are cancerous tumors characterized by a slower development in the upper layers of the skin. These cancers are also known as non-melanoma, meaning they occur in the epithelial tissue, and they’re far less aggressive than melanoma, a rare yet very aggressive form of skin cancer.

As advocates of prevention, we want you to be informed about the most common types of skin cancer. To help you out, we asked our expert, Dr. Gail Zimmerman, all about them. Read on to learn how BCC is different from SCC, and find out how these skin cancers are diagnosed.

Basal cell carcinoma

BCC develops in the basal cells, the skin cells that produce new types of skin cells when the old ones die off.

This type of skin cancer is the most common, but it’s also the least likely to spread. BCC has many subtypes, the most common type being a small, shiny lump, making it harder to identify at home without the help of a professional.

Squamous cell carcinoma 

SCC affects the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, and requires more urgent treatment because it’s more likely to spread. However, SCC is a lot rarer than BCC, as it causes cancerous growth in only 20% of the non-melanoma cancers.

Squamous cell carcinomas vary in appearance. Some lesions look like open sores, whereas others look like warts. Although this type of skin cancer can occur anywhere, you are more likely to develop it on body parts that are regularly exposed to the sun.

Causes and risk factors 

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are more likely to occur in people over 50 and of Caucasian descent.  

BCC and SCC share the following risk factors:

  • Light skin, light hair, and brown or green eyes 
  • Numerous moles or freckles
  • Weakened or dysfunctional immune system (autoimmune diseases)
  • Photosensitivity either due to a medical condition or due to medications or creams

Patients with diabetes, HIV, and people who are taking immunosuppressants may also be at a higher risk for developing carcinomas.

How BCC and SCC are diagnosed 

In the past few decades, skin cancer rates have soared along with the use of tanning beds and overexposure to the sun. The good news is that most types of skin cancer are highly treatable. With a simple physical examination, Dr. Zimmerman can determine whether or not you’re at risk. 

So if you live near Bay Head, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, Point Pleasant Beach, Brielle, or Manasquan New Jersey, contact us to schedule an appointment and find out if you’re in the clear. Our specialist can also help choose the perfect sunscreen for your skin type and provide you with additional tips for keeping your skin healthy.

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