Skin Cancer Prevention Basal Cell Carcinoma

As I left my deep water aerobics class and stepped into my car, I quickly scrolled through my phone messages. Two missed calls from my dermatologist office with no messages left. I was waiting to hear my biopsy results from a skin sample removed the week prior. “No news is good news,” said my dermatologist when I left his office on Christmas Eve. We’ll call you if there is a problem.”

synchronized swimming, swimming, skin cancer
Unprotected sun exposure leads to skin cancer. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Skin cancer

My heart skipped a beat as I called the doctor’s office knowing this was not good news. Sure enough, the receptionist told me that my biopsy came back positive for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, they do not spread and are almost always a local growth on the skin. Treated with local surgery, in my case a 50 minute in-office procedure, they have a very high cure rate.

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma; the superficial type that appears as a red, scaly patch, the nodular type that appears as a pearly growth, the pigmented basal cell carcinoma and the aggressive morpheic basal cell carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinomas are less common but have the potential to spread beyond the local area. Please refer to a medical doctor for proper diagnosis.


Originally, I thought the blemish by my jawbone on the right side of my cheek might be acne. My husband thought that, as well. I showed it to my primary care physician who instructed me to see my dermatologist if it didn’t disappear in 30 days. Busy with travel assignments, I disregarded her instructions and waited until Christmas Eve, eight months later, before going in for my yearly mole check.

basal cell carcinoma, skin cancer, skin cancer prevention
Basal Cell Carcinoma pre and post surgery.

Sun safety tips to prevent skin cancer

Back in June of 2008, I wrote a blog post about “Top 10 Sun Safety Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer.” The three main factors in the development of skin cancer are how much unprotected sun exposure you have had, your skin type and your age.

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As a Northern California native with Norwegian heritage, I have three strikes against me. In my youth I routinely subjected my fair skin to unprotected sun exposure through swimming, horseback riding and my general preference to live outdoors and now, as as active adventure baby boomer, my age is working against me.

What have I learned from my skin cancer diagnosis? Always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, lip balm with strong SPF, a broad brimmed sun hat, clothing with UPF protection and UV-blocking lenses in your sunglasses.

Do you have experience with basal cell carcinoma or Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer? What are your tips on how to prevent skin cancer?

Article written by and photos courtesy of fair-skinned travel writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California.

11 thoughts on “Skin Cancer Prevention Basal Cell Carcinoma”

  1. Unfortunately, I’ve had my share of experiences with basal cell carcinoma. My mother, of Swedish heritage, had a history of them as well. Most often, they’re taken care of with freezing, but I’ve had Mohs Surgery above my lips. Oh, the days of sunbathing wearing suntan oil without any sunscreen — or baby oil! Who knew??

  2. @Cathy
    I’m hearing from more and more people who have tangled with skin cancer. Awareness is key when it comes to skin protection. Now we can do better because we know better.

  3. To my utter amazement I had a tiny but cancerous spot on my left ankle in my 30s. I grew up in Pittsburgh which has about 5 days of sunshine a year and our family was probably the first one in the US to use sunscreen. The doctor was able to get in deep enough to get out all of the bad tissue but it made me realize that I have to be super careful and I am. I have quite the wardrobe of SPF clothing! Glad you caught yours!

  4. @Kay
    Your wonderful sense of humor shines through even when it comes to skin cancer. I will be joining you on the SPF clothing. My new Tilley hat just arrived. I will be rocking the SPF hat protection this year!

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