Morpheaform Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. However, there are different types of skin cancer that are classified as BCC. One type is morpheaform basal cell carcinoma. Morpheaform BCC is also sometimes called infiltrative BCC or sclerosing BCC.1,2

What are basal cells?

Basal cells are a type of cell found at the bottom of our outermost level of the skin. This is called the epidermis. A basal cell’s job is to make new skin cells. The new cells are pushed to the top of our skin as old, dead skin cells naturally shed.1

How does basal cell carcinoma develop?

BCC happens when a basal cell has a mutation in its DNA. DNA carries the instructions that tell the basal cell how to make skin cells. However, if it is mutated, this can cause the basal cell to multiply quickly and not die. These multiplying, mutated cells eventually form a cancerous tumor. These tumors can have different shapes and features. This is what defines the subtypes of BCC, including morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.1

The basics of morpheaform basal cell carcinoma

Morpheaform basal cell carcinoma is an aggressive subtype of BCC. It makes up about 5 to 10 percent of BCC cases. It is usually located on the face. It is rarely located elsewhere on the body. It resembles a white, waxy, scar-like lesion without a well-defined border.1-3

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What does morpheaform basal cell carcinoma look like?

One of the defining features of morpheaform BCC is its shape. These tumors tend to be less regular and do not have well-defined edges. They often have long strands that extend off the main tumor node. This means the tumors can grow into other layers of the skin, or nearby muscles or other structures. The irregular shape of these tumors can make them difficult to treat.2

Can I reduce my risk of developing morpheaform basal cell carcinoma?

Like most types of skin cancer, sun exposure increases the risk of developing morpheaform BCC. Taking steps to protect yourself from the sun, like wearing sunscreen and avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, can help reduce your risk of developing morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.1,2

How is morpheaform basal cell carcinoma different from other types of BCC?

There are 3 main subtypes of BCC2

  1. Nodular
  2. Superficial
  3. Morpheaform

The rarest subtype

Morpheaform is the rarest subtype. However, it can be harder to treat and more serious than other forms of BCC. It can also be more likely to come back after treatment (recurrence). These features impact how doctors choose to treat morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.2

How is morpheaform basal cell carcinoma treated?

Your doctor will determine the best treatment for your BCC based on many factors. Some factors they may consider include:4

  1. History of treatment
  2. Location and size of the tumor
  3. Type of cancer

Surgery as treatment

Skin cancer is typically treated with surgery to remove cancerous cells. There are 2 types of removal surgery


During an excision, your doctor cuts out the cancer with a margin of healthy cells around it. The margin is examined to make sure it contains no cancer cells, which would mean not all the cancer was removed.1

Mohs surgery

During Mohs surgery, your doctor will remove the cancer one layer at a time. During the surgery, your doctor examines each layer removed until no cancer cells remain. This ensures all the cancer is removed. Mohs surgery is more difficult and takes longer than excision. However, it is more likely to completely remove the cancer and lowers the risk that the cancer will return. It also minimizes scarring if the cancer is in a noticeable place, like your face.1,4

Mohs may be your best treatment option

Because of its ability to invade the surrounding area, typical location in high-risk areas, and high risk of recurrence, your doctor may recommend Mohs surgery for treating morpheaform basal cell carcinoma. It is possible that excision alone would not remove all the cancer. Removing all the cancer with excision would also remove a large amount of healthy tissue.2-4

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with morpheaform basal cell carcinoma?

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