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Basal cell carcinoma: Self-care


Once you’ve had basal cell carcinoma (BCC), you have a higher risk of developing another skin cancer, including melanoma, the most serious skin cancer.

You’ll have this increased risk for the rest of your life.

To help you reduce these risks and find skin cancer early, dermatologists recommend the following to their patients who have had BCC:

  1. Keep all your dermatology appointments. Your dermatologist will tell you how often you will need to come in. During these appointments, your dermatologist will check you for signs of skin cancer.

  2. Learn how to examine your own skin for signs of skin cancer, and do this as often as your dermatologist recommends. The purpose of the skin self-exam is to find skin cancer early when it’s most treatable.

    Because these exams can be lifesaving, the AAD offers information to help you do this own your own. Watch the video below to learn how to do a skin self-exam:

    Skin self-exam: How to do

    You can catch skin cancer early by following board-certified dermatologists' tips for checking your skin.

    During your skin self-exam, you want to examine all your skin, even places that rarely get sun. Make an appointment to see your dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:

    • Differs from the others
    • Changes
    • Itches
    • Bleeds
    When you make an appointment to see your dermatologist, be sure to mention that you’ve been treated for skin cancer.

  3. Protect your skin from the sun. While many people feel that the damage has already been done once they develop skin cancer, protecting your skin from the sun has benefits. Sun protection can prevent further damage to your skin and may allow your body to repair some of the existing damage.

    Avoiding the sun after treatment for BCC will also help your skin to heal and reduce scarring.

    For these reasons, dermatologists recommend that you protect your skin from the sun every day, even in winter. To reduce your risk of getting another skin cancer, you want to:

    • Avoid the sun whenever possible. When you’re outdoors during the day, seek shade and try to avoid being outdoors when the sun is strongest, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
    • Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen every single day. Even when it’s cloudy, raining, or snowing outdoors, wear sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. You should apply this every day, even if you’re only spending a few minutes outdoors.
    • Wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun. Before going outdoors during the day, you want to put on a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Whenever possible, wear long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks.

    Seek shade when outdoors

    After getting basal cell carcinoma, protecting your skin from the sun can reduce your risk of getting another skin cancer.

  4. Never use a tanning bed or other indoor tanning equipment. Indoor tanning is not safer than the sun.

    In fact, the UV rays from tanning beds and other indoor tanning equipment tends to be stronger than the sun’s UV rays. Whether the UV rays come from the sun or indoor tanning, science has proven that the UV light can cause cancer.

    In fact, the evidence that indoor tanning dramatically increases your risk of getting skin cancer is so strong that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires warning labels on all indoor tanning equipment.

You’ll find more information about the different types of skin cancer, including the signs and symptoms of each by going to the, Skin Cancer Resource Center.


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References
Cameron MC, Lee E, et al. “Basal cell carcinoma Contemporary approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2019;80:321-39.

Nouri K, Ballard CJ, et al. “Basal cell carcinoma.” In: Nouri K, et al. Skin Cancer. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2008: 61-81.

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