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.
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.
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
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
Past infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
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
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.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
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: https://www.guideline.gov/summaries/summary/48130?#Section420.
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116909/Cutaneous-squamous-cell-carcinoma. Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Squamous cell carcinoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/squamous-cell-carcinoma. Updated February 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Squamous cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/squamous-cell-carcinoma. Accessed February 25, 2015.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed March 6, 2018.
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