Australian actor Hugh Jackman recently posted an Instagram video where he revealed that he is waiting for the results of a skin biopsy to determine if he has basal cell carcinoma, a slow-growing and common type of skin cancer that typically occurs on sun-damaged skin. Jackman, who had basal cell carcinoma on his nose in 2013, took the opportunity to remind his followers to wear sunscreen, especially as summer approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.
In this article, we will explore the early warning signs, prevention, and treatment options for basal cell carcinoma, as well as the importance of wearing sunscreen and getting regular skin cancer screenings.
Early Warning Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas can look like a shiny bump that could be red, white or clear, or black or brown in people with darker skin tones; a sore filled with fluid that oozes, crusts, or bleeds; a shiny or scaly area of skin that looks like scar tissue; or even one that has pigmented areas or dark spots that look blue or gray in color and could be mistaken for a melanoma. Unlike other skin patches or sores, skin cancers fail to heal.
According to Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, a board-certified dermatologist from Westlake Dermatology in Austin, “They can be itchy or painful, pink, or brown. Basal cell carcinomas often tend to be light pink or clear and may bleed.”
Prevention of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell cancers occur due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, with chronic exposure to UV rays from the sun being the greatest risk factor, especially in early childhood and adolescence. Indoor tanning, a history of skin cancer, being over 50 years old, fair skin, and having chronic infections and skin inflammations, including burns and scars, are other risk factors.
Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, stated that “Tanning is a defense mechanism that gets turned on when the DNA of skin cells is getting damaged by UV radiation. Both suntans and sunburns result from DNA damage that can pave the way to skin cancer.” Therefore, avoiding tanning beds and limiting sun exposure are essential in preventing skin cancer.
The Importance of Sunscreen
Since wearing sunscreen can reduce skin damage and skin cancers, finding one that protects your skin, even on days that aren’t sunny, can be helpful in prevention. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and it should be water-resistant and broad-spectrum, meaning that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Treatment Options for Basal Cell Carcinoma
If left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can expand to other areas of the body, although the spread is rare with this type of skin cancer. Common treatment options include different types of surgery, such as curettage or scraping to remove the skin tumor. Rarely do people need radiation therapy or chemotherapy for basal cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer that can be prevented with sun safety measures, including wearing sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds, as well as regular skin cancer screenings. Early warning signs of basal cell carcinoma include shiny bumps, sores that bleed, and scaly areas of skin. While basal cell carcinoma is highly treatable, it is essential to get regular skin cancer screenings to catch any potential skin cancers early. As Hugh Jackman reminds us, “Please wear sunscreen. It is just not worth it. No matter how much you want to tan. Trust me.”