Typical BCC of the right lower eyelid

Did you know that basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, yet it’s often mistaken for less severe skin lesions? Early detection is vital for successful treatment, so understanding the symptoms of basal cell carcinoma, appearance, and risk factors is crucial. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to recognize BCC, compare it with other skin cancers, and explore prevention strategies and tools for monitoring your skin. Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma, including bumps, lesions and patches.
  • Understand the risk factors for BCC development caused by UV radiation exposure.
  • Monitor your skin regularly to detect any changes early

Recognizing Basal Cell Carcinoma: Key Signs and Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma, also known as basal cell cancer, is a type of skin cancer originating from the abnormal cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis, and its development is often linked to sun exposure. Detecting most basal cell carcinomas early on is important, as they can be mistaken for less severe skin lesions. Keep in mind that BCC typically appears as:

  • Translucent bumps on the skin
  • Brown, blue, or black lesions
  • Flat red patches
  • White, waxy lesions resembling scars

The common locations for BCC are skin areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and hands. However, BCC can also develop in areas not regularly exposed to the sun. Understanding the typical appearance and common locations of lesions aids in spotting them early and starting treatment promptly.

Typical Lesions and Their Appearance

BCC lesions can vary in appearance depending on the individual’s skin tone. Most BCCs are found in sun-exposed areas, including the face, neck, and arms. They can also occur in areas not regularly exposed to the sun.

Nodular basal cell carcinoma often appears as:

  • A raised, flesh-coloured or pinkish bump on the skin
  • The bump may have a smooth, shiny surface or be ulcerated
  • The nodule is usually pink or flesh-coloured.
  • It may have a pearly or translucent appearance, with small blood vessels visible on the surface

Pigmented basal cell carcinoma has a darker hue than regular BCC and can appear similar to melanoma. To accurately identify pigmented BCC, look for pigment flecks around the base of the nodule, which are engorged melanocytes absent in melanoma. Dermoscopy can differentiate pigmented basal cell carcinoma from other pigmented lesions.

Common Locations for Basal Cell Carcinomas

As mentioned earlier, basal cell carcinomas occur typically in areas frequently exposed to sunlight, including the face, neck, and arms. This is mainly attributed to prolonged exposure to sunlight ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is recommended to limit sun exposure and use sunscreen to prevent BCC.

However, BCC can also develop on the legs and feet, even if they are not typically exposed to the sun. Other factors can contribute to BCC’s risk and development, not just sun exposure. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware of BCC’s common locations and monitor your skin for any changes.

Visual Guide: Basal Cell Carcinoma Images

A visual guide to basal cell carcinoma images can help you recognize different types and appearances of the cancer. BCC is classified into three types: nodular, superficial, and pigmented. By exploring various images and photos of each type, you’ll be better equipped to identify BCC lesions on your own skin.

To get started, you can find a skin cancer image gallery available online showcasing different types of BCC, including nodular, superficial, and pigmented. Familiarizing yourself with the visual characteristics of each type aids in early detection and treatment.

Nodular BCC Pictures

A picture of a nodular basal cell carcinoma

Nodular BCC pictures display the most common form of basal cell carcinoma, characterized by raised, translucent bumps. These bumps often have a glossy, skin-colored appearance and may be translucent or pearly white/pink with visible blood vessels surrounding them.

Stages of nodular BCC appearance range from zero to four, with higher numbers indicating more aggressive cancers. Basal cell carcinoma is typically staged according to the Tumor, Node, Metastasis (TNM) classification, a crucial step in deciding the most effective treatment plan. Being able to recognize nodular BCC in its various stages can significantly improve early detection.

Superficial BCC Photos

A photo of a superficial basal cell carcinoma

Superficial basal cell carcinoma photos show a less common form of basal cell carcinoma that appears as red, scaly patches on the skin. A red, scaly plaque typically identifies superficial BCC with raised borders and is commonly found on the trunk or extremities.

Reliable images of superficial BCC can be found on DermNet NZ and Verywell Health websites. By examining these photos and understanding the distinguishing features, such as well-demarcated erythematous scaly plaques with elevated borders and multiple small lesions, you’ll be better prepared to identify superficial BCC on your skin.

Pigmented BCC Images

An image of a pigmented basal cell carcinoma

Pigmented BCC images depict a type of basal cell carcinoma that appears as brown or black bumps with rolled borders. Given that pigmented BCC can resemble melanoma, as previously discussed, it’s vital to distinguish between the two.

Distinguishing pigmented BCC from other skin conditions can be challenging, but using pigmented BCC images as a reference can help improve your ability to identify this type of BCC. If you notice any concerning or suspicious findings, consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk Factors and Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma

While long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight is the most common cause of basal cell carcinoma, other contributing factors also play a role in BCC development. BCC can be caused by damage to the DNA of a single cell, leading to its multiplication and eventual formation of a visible skin lesion.

Awareness of these risk factors and causes is key to taking the right preventative actions. Wearing protective clothing, limiting sun exposure, and using sunscreen effectively reduce your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

Diagnosing and Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma

The procedure for diagnosing basal cell carcinoma typically involves a skin biopsy. Here are the steps involved:

  1. A small sample of the lesion is removed.
  2. The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.
  3. Skin biopsies are generally reliable in diagnosing BCC.
  4. Punch and shave biopsy specimens provide sufficient sampling for accurate BCC subtyping in 82% of cases examined.

Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options available for basal cell carcinoma, including:

  • Curettage and electrodesiccation
  • Mohs surgery
  • Excisional surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Surgical removal

Treatment choice will depend on factors such as the tumour’s size, location, and aggressiveness.

Malignant Versus Benign Eyelid Lesion

Benign Eyelid LesionsMalignant Eyelid Lesions
Typically harmless and non-cancerousCancerous and potentially life-threatening
Slow growth rateRapid growth rate
Smooth and regular bordersIrregular and jagged borders
Usually painlessCan cause pain or discomfort
Often remain the same size or shrink over timeTend to increase in size
No loss of eyelashesLoss of eyelashes
Common types include chalazion, cysts, and papillomasCommon types include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma
Treatment may involve observation, topical medications, or minor surgical proceduresTreatment often requires more aggressive interventions like surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy
Generally do not spread to other parts of the bodyCan metastasize and spread to other organs or tissues
Prognosis is usually excellent with low recurrence ratesPrognosis varies depending on the type and stage of the malignant lesion
Regular monitoring and follow-up may be recommendedRegular monitoring and follow-up are crucial for early detection and intervention
A lesion of the eyelid margin demonstrates preservation of the lower eyelid lashes, which suggests a benign process, in this case, a seborrheic keratosis.
Basal Cell Carcinoma of Eyelid Margin with eyelash loss.
A lesion of the eyelid margin demonstrating loss of eyelashes, is a strong indicator of a malignant process, in this case basal cell carcinoma.

Prevention Strategies for Basal Cell Carcinoma

Preventing basal cell carcinoma involves adopting a few simple habits. Wearing dark, tightly woven clothing that covers the arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat can help protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Besides wearing protective clothing to keep your skin exposed to a minimum, regularly inspecting your skin for any changes or new lesions is of great importance. Self-checks and routine skin exams by a healthcare provider can lead to early detection and timely treatment, significantly improving your chances of successful recovery.

Comparing Basal Cell Carcinoma with Other Skin Cancers

Differentiating between basal cell carcinoma and other skin cancers like squamous cell carcinoma and Merkel cell carcinoma is crucial for identifying the various types of skin cancer. BCC originates from the basal cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis, while squamous cell carcinoma arises from the squamous skin cells in the upper layers of the epidermis.

Basal cell carcinoma is generally less aggressive than squamous and Merkel cell carcinoma.

Here are some basal cell carcinoma signs and characteristics of each type:

Skin Cancer TypeAppearance
Basal Cell CarcinomaPearly or waxy bump
Squamous Cell CarcinomaScaly or crusty growth
Merkel Cell CarcinomaPearly, pimple-like lump with various colors (skin-colored, red, purple, or bluish-red)

Monitoring Your Skin: Tools and Techniques

Several tools and techniques are available for monitoring your skin to aid in early skin cancer detection. Smartphone applications, such as Miiskin, facilitate the regular taking of full-body photographs and close-ups of moles to identify new or altered moles and marks.

Conducting regular self-examinations also plays a key role in early detection. Examine your face, scalp, hands, arms, and body regularly, every month to identify any potential signs of skin cancer. If you notice any unusual growths, moles, blemishes, or changes in your skin’s appearance, consult a healthcare professional for a complete skin exam and further evaluation.


In conclusion, recognizing the signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma is crucial for early detection and treatment. Familiarize yourself with BCC’s different types and appearances, monitor your skin regularly, and adopt prevention strategies to reduce your risk. Remember that early detection is key to successful treatment, so don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if you notice any changes in your skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does basal cell carcinoma make you feel?

Basal cell carcinoma can present as reddish patches, shiny bumps, or nodules which can be pearly, pink, red, white, tan, black or brown. These lesions can cause discomfort and itchiness, and if left untreated, can become locally invasive. Early detection and prompt treatment are essential to successful outcomes.

What does stage basal cell carcinoma look like?

Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a pearly bump that looks shiny or translucent, a flat growth with pink, red, blue, brown or black areas, a scar-like white, waxy patch, or a dome-shaped lesion with a depressed center.

What is mistaken for basal cell carcinoma?

Sebaceous glands that form into small yellow or flesh-coloured papules can resemble basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, and be mistaken for a harmless pimple, scar, or sore.

What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the deepest layer of the epidermis, commonly caused by exposure to the sun.

What are the common signs and symptoms of BCC?

Common signs and symptoms of BCC include translucent bumps, brown/blue/black lesions, flat red patches, and white waxy lesions resembling scars.


  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021). Basal Cell Carcinoma: Signs and Symptoms. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma#symptoms
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Basal cell carcinoma. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/basal-cell-carcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20354187
  3. Skin Cancer Foundation. (2021). Basal Cell Carcinoma. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma/
  4. National Cancer Institute. (2021). Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/basal-cell-treatment-pdq
  5. WebMD. (2021). Basal Cell Carcinoma: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. https://www.webmd.com/melanoma-skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma-symptoms-treatments


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.


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