Although it is commonly located on the face, basal cell cancer can develop on the ears, back, neck and other skin surfaces frequently exposed to the sun.
Your doctor will examine your skin. He or she will do a biopsy, which involves removing skin so it can be examined in a laboratory. The doctor may remove some, or all, of the abnormal skin for the biopsy.
Once a basal cell cancer develops on the skin, it usually grows slowly. It can become very large, especially if it is on your lower back, the back of your shoulder or some other area that you do not usually see in the mirror.
Unprotected exposure to sunlight increases your risk of developing basal cell cancer. You can help to reduce this risk in several ways:
Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher before you go outdoors.
Limit your time outdoors when the sun is at its peak (in most parts of the United States, from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet light protection.
Wear long pants, a shirt with long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim.
Be aware that some drugs may increase your skin’s risk of damage from the sun. These include certain antibiotics, and drugs used to treat psychiatric illness, high blood pressure, heart failure, acne and allergies. If you take prescription medications, ask your doctor if you need to take extra precautions to limit sun exposure.
Be aware that some skin care products can make your skin more vulnerable to damage from sunlight. These include products containing alpha-hydroxy acids.
If a basal cell cancer develops on your skin, early detection may limit damage. Examine your skin thoroughly every one to two months. Use a mirror to check your skin on less visible areas, such as your back, shoulders, upper arms, buttocks and the soles of your feet. Have a yearly skin exam by your physician.