Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. It is the second most common form of skin cancer.
The cancer develops in the upper layer of skin cells. It is rarely fatal if treated early. However, the cancer can be deadly if it spreads beyond the skin.
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Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Squamous cell carcinoma is more common in men and those over 50 years old. It is also more common in those who live near the equator or in high altitudes. The risk is higher in skin with scars, previous burns, or ulcers.
Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. 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 goal is to treat the cancer as soon as possible. Treatment depends on the type, stage, and location of the cancer. It also depends on the person's age and health.
Surgery options are:
Other treatments may be needed. Some may be used instead of surgery or after surgery. It depends on exam of the cancer. Options may be:
Counseling may also be advised—to help with coping.
To help lower the risk of squamous cell carcinoma:
American Academy of Dermatology
Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cutaneous-squamous-cell-carcinoma. Accessed September 23, 2021.
Squamous cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/scc. Accessed September 23, 2021.
Squamous cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/squamous-cell-carcinoma . Accessed September 23, 2021.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed September 23, 2021.
Waldman A, Schmults C. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2019;33(1):1-12.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 9/23/2021