CRDAMC Homepage | CRDAMC Library Phone #: (254) 288-8366 | CRDAMC Library Fax #: (254) 288-8368

Search Health Library

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

(Skin cancer-Squamous Cell)


Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. It is the second most common form of skin cancer.

The cancer develops in the uppermost layer of skin cells. Squamous cell carcinoma usually grows slowly. It is rarely fatal if treated early. However, the cancer can be lethal if it spreads beyond the skin.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells but it is probably a combination of genetics and the environment.

Risk Factors    TOP

Areas of skin that are damaged have a higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is more likely to develop skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or exposure to chemicals or radiation.

Factors that may increase your chances of squamous cell carcinoma:

  • History of radiation or ultraviolet light treatment
  • Childhood sunburns, freckling, or long periods of sun exposure
  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Blonde or red hair
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Fair skin that rarely tans
  • Treatments or medications that suppress the immune system, or a previous organ transplant
  • Frequent use of tanning beds
  • Exposure to cancer causing chemical such as arsenic, tar, or some insecticides
  • Smoking
  • Past infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms may include:

  • A raised red patch that is scaly or rough
  • A raised patch of skin that may appear to have horn-like rough edges
  • A long-standing patch that may be reddish, pink, flesh-colored, or reddish-brown
  • A long-standing sore that will not heal with simple at-home treatment

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

The skin growth will be examined. A sample of the growth will be taken and examined for cancer cells. This will help determine the stage and type of the cancer. The information will be used to guide treatment and make a prognosis.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

  • Mohs micrographic surgery—surgery to remove skin in thin layers to be examined under a microscope
  • Removal of the growth with simple surgery
  • Plastic surgery to repair any cosmetic problems that occur after treatment

Other treatments may be used based on the size or microscopic findings of the cancer. In some cases, surgery may not be an option. Other treatments may include:

  • Freezing the growth off with liquid nitrogen
  • Laser treatment
  • Radiation therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy—a type of light therapy
  • Medicated creams, especially fluorouracil or imiquimod

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce the chances of squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM standard time, or 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM daylight saving time.
  • Protect your skin from the sun with clothing. Wear a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat with a broad brim.
  • Use broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more on skin that will be exposed to the sun.
  • Use a protective lip balm.
  • Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to protect your eyes.
  • Do not use sun lamps or tanning booths.
  • Get regular full-body skin exams by a dermatologist if you are at high risk for skin cancer. The doctor will check for moles, freckles, and other growths.

If you see any changes in your skin, such as new growths or changes in moles or freckles, contact your doctor for a skin exam.


American Academy of Dermatology


Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association


Alberta Provincial Cutaneous Tumour Team. Prevention of skin cancer. Edmonton (Alberta): CancerControl Alberta; 2013 Feb. 27 p. (Clinical practice guideline; no. CU-014). Available at:
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Squamous cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Squamous cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed February 25, 2015.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed March 6, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
Last Updated: 3/6/2018

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Health Library: Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
36000 Darnall Loop Fort Hood, Texas 76544-4752 | Phone: (254) 288-8000