More than skin deep: basal cell carcinoma

Author: , Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published: May 23 2013 06:00:00 AM EDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Mayfair in Allentown is May 24-27, which means many of you will be out in the sun.

So, as a reminder to wear your sunscreen, 69 News continues our year-long series "More Than Skin Deep." Now, we focus on basal cell carcinoma.

There are three main types of skin cancer: melanoma, squamous cell, and basal cell.

Statistics show that basal cell is the most common form of not only skin cancer, but the most common form of cancer in general. Nearly three-million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed every year.

"A couple basal cells on my face, I've had them removed," said Ed McLeane, 80, of Asbury, NJ, as he pointed to some spots on his face. He began telling the story of his battle with skin cancer that started several years ago.

Doctors says signs of basal cell carcinoma are pink growths, red patches, open sores or ulcers with oozing or bleeding. "Any ulcer in your upper body, especially head and neck area in the elderly populations, that doesn't heal in 1-2 weeks," explained Dr. Rohit Sharma, surgical oncologist at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Dr. Sharma said basal cell cancer is largely due to sun damage and most common in people over the age of 50. He said, "That's the time that all the cumulative sun exposure over a lifetime starts to show effects and the basal cells keep coming up."

Ed loves the outdoors and admits he hasn't always worn sunscreen. "Nobody thought about cancer years ago, we're talking 40-50 years ago," said Ed.

However, last year, he found out he had more skin cancer. This time the most deadly form, melanoma. Fortunately, it hadn't spread and doctors were able to remove it.

It was during that process that they also found another basal cell carcinoma. This one was larger than the previous ones.

Dr. Sharma said basal cells rarely spread, and in 90% of the cases, like Ed's, are cured by surgery.

"It's still stitched up back there," Ed said as he pointed to he back of his neck where he had the cancer removed. "I've got an incision about 3-inches."

"The standard therapy is surgical excision, which means we just take the cancer out, all off it out with a little bit of the skin surrounding it to ensure that all the cancer is out," explained Dr. Sharma.

The doctor warns that basal cell cancers can grow and be disfiguring if not caught in time.

For now, Ed's just happy everything was discovered early enough. "That's all for now hopefully!" he exclaimed.