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.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
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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 is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Areas of skin that are damaged have higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is most 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 increase your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma include: Increasing ageBlonde or red hairBlue or green eyes
sunburns, freckling, or long periods of sun exposure
Fair skin that rarely tansA family history of skin cancerA personal history of skin cancerTreatment that suppresses the immune system, such as such as having an organ transplantHistory of radiation or ultraviolet light treatmentFrequent use of tanning bedsExposure to cancer causing chemical such as arsenic, tar, or some insecticidesBeing a smokerPast infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
Symptoms include: A raised red patch that is scaly or roughA raised patch of skin that may appear to have horn-like rough edgesIn color, the patch may be reddish, pink, flesh-colored, or reddish-brownA long-standing sore that will not heal with simple at-home treatment
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The doctor will look at the skin growth. A sample of the growth will be taken and examined for cancer cells. This examine will help determine the stage and type of the cancer.
Your doctor will use this information to guide treatment and make a prognosis.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include: Mohs micrographic surgery—microscopic surgery that offers the best cure rate for squamous cell carcinomaRemoving the growth with simple surgeryPlastic surgery to repair any cosmetic problems that occur after treatment
For people who are not able to have surgery, other treatment options include: Freezing the growth off with liquid nitrogenLaser treatmentRadiation therapyPhotodynamic therapy in which the cells absorb an acid that causes them to die when exposed to light
To reduce your chances of getting squamous cell carcinoma, take these steps: Reduce your exposure to the sun. Wear sunscreen, long sleeves and slacks, and hats.Stay out of the sun during the midday hours.UV light is stronger at higher elevations. If you ski or do other winter sports, wear sunscreen.At-risk adults should examine themselves monthly. They should also get regular full-body exams by a dermatologist. The doctor will check for moles, freckles, and other growths.Limit how much time your child spends in the sun. Discourage your child from tanning.
Jerant A, Johnson J, et al. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer.
Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jul 15;62(2):357.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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