The most common treatment for basal cell carcinoma, and the one used by Clinton's doctors, involves scraping away the cancerous cells layer by layer and zapping surrounding tissue with an electric needle. This can be done in an office with local anesthesia. Recurrence of small tumors treated this way is about 5 percent. For larger tumors, more invasive surgery, lasers, directly applied chemotherapy agents, or liquid nitrogen are used to kill the cancer cells.
Because basal cell lesions are so common, doctors recommend a thorough skin exam every three years for those between 20 and 40 years old, and yearly for people 40 and older to detect any abnormal growths. And in between, they suggest avoiding the sun during its peak intensity in the middle of the day. If you have to go outside, protect yourself with sunscreen and clothing. If you're worried about a new growth or an existing one that has changed its appearance, see a skin specialist; he can take a tiny sample of the lesion and determine if it is cancerous.