Barstool's Dave Portnoy had basal cell carcinoma removed. Experts explain the skin cancer's risks, causes and treatment.

Dave Portnoy
Barstool Sports' Dave Portnoy recently revealed his battle with basal cell carcinoma. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Founder and CEO of Barstool Sports Dave Portnoy “beat cancer,” he said Wednesday after being asked during a podcast filming about a visible scar and bandage on his neck. The 47-year-old told host Brianna LaPaglia that he went to the doctor for a skin check after noticing a mole on his neck. “They scraped it and one of them came back as cancerous,” he said. “They cut it the f*** out. ... I’ve got a scar going all the way down my neck. I look like Frankenstein."

Portnoy went on to say that it was “only a basal,” referring to a type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma that starts in the basal cells, a type of cell within the skin that produces new skin cells as old ones die off, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Christie Brinkley described her own experience with basal cell carcinoma in March. Kevin Jonas also revealed on June 11 that he got the skin cancer removed from his hairline. So, what is it exactly, how is it treated and how can people take precautions to catch it early? Here’s what to know.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting nearly 1 in 5 Americans, says Anne Sexton, physician assistant at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Fort Mill, S.C. “Basal cell carcinoma is most commonly caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation over a long period of time, specifically from sunlight or tanning beds,” she tells Yahoo Life. “It begins in the basal cells, which are cells within the skin that produce new skin cells when old skin cells die.”

Having light skin, a history of skin cancer and being over the age of 50 are among the factors that can increase your risk, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. However, dermatologists report that more 20- and 30-year-olds are being treated for BCC due to increased tanning. It most commonly develops on the areas of the body that are exposed to the sun like the head and neck.

The two other main forms of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which is the most deadly.

“In terms of prognosis and treatment outcomes, basal cell carcinoma is often considered the least dangerous and most treatable form [of skin cancer],” Dr. Hannah Kopelman, dermatologist at Kopelman Aesthetic Surgery, tells Yahoo Life. “BCC rarely spreads to other parts of the body, which significantly reduces the risk of it being life-threatening.”

However, she adds, “it's still cancer and requires attention and care.”

Mayo Clinic reports that BCC appears as a growth or sore on the skin that doesn’t heal. It can be a shiny, skin-colored bump or a slightly raised brown, black or blue lesion. It can also appear as a flat, scaly patch with a raised edge or a white, waxy, scar-like lesion.

Any of these are likely to be more pigmented on patients with darker skin. BCCs can also itch, ooze, bleed or scab over. In some cases they may grow over time.

Skin Cancer Foundation warns readers that BCCs can resemble noncancerous skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. It’s important to have any new, changing or unusual marks on the skin checked out by a dermatologist to receive an accurate diagnosis by biopsy.

The most effective and commonly used treatment of BCC is Mohs surgery, which involves removing thin layers of skin to be examined for signs of cancer. The process continues, layer by layer, until no cancer cells remain. The residual wound is then either stitched up or left to heal naturally.

Other forms of treatment include excisional surgery, where a surgeon uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth along with some surrounding tissue, and cryosurgery, which involves freezing. These are for smaller or less invasive BCCs, respectively.

“In many cases, once BCC is removed, no further treatment is necessary. However, follow-up care is essential to monitor for any recurrence,” says Kopelman. “In some instances, if the cancer is more advanced or aggressive, additional treatments such as radiation therapy might be recommended.” The risk of developing BCC or another form of skin cancer again in the future is heightened after initial diagnosis.

“Awareness of BCC is crucial because early detection and treatment can prevent significant tissue damage and reduce the risk of recurrence,” says Kopelman.

She suggests that people do the following to protect themselves:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Kopelman notes that it should be reapplied every 2 hours, or even more if sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing and hats. For bonus points, wear clothing that has ultraviolet protective factor in it.

  • Sun safely. Do this by “seeking shade during peak sun hours,” which are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Kopelman also emphasizes the need to avoid tanning beds.

  • Perform regular skin self-exams. These should be done in addition to getting annual full-body skin exams at the dermatologist. “Year-round protection and vigilance are key to preventing BCC and other skin cancers,” she says.