Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common cancer of the skin, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) effects more than 250,000 people each year in the United States. Elderly and middle-aged people, especially those with frequent sun exposure and fair complexions, are more likely to be affected.

Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis). Small sandpaper-like lesions called solar (sun) or actinic keratosis often give rise to SCC. Early treatment is important because it is possible for them to spread to other areas of the body, most commonly the nearest lymph nodes.

What does Squamous Cell Carcinoma look like?

Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as scaly or crusted patches on the epidermis with a red, growing tumor, an inflamed base, or an ulcer that won’t heal. They are most commonly found in sun-exposed areas like the chest, back, legs, face, scalp, hands, and ears. This cancer also can occur on the genitalia, inside the mouth, on the lips, or anywhere else on the body. Lesions, especially those that do not heal, bleed, grow, or appear to change, should be evaluated by a physician.

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma In Situ?

An early stage of skin cancer, sometimes called Bowen's disease, the in situ form of SCC is confined to the site in the epidermis where it originated and has neither invaded neighboring tissues nor metastasized afar. The defining factor of SCC in situ is a persistent, progressive, slightly raised, red, scaly or crusted plaque. SCC in situ may occur anywhere on the surface of the epidermis. It mostly occurs in "older" white males on areas of the skin that are sun-exposed.

How is Squamous Cell Carcinoma diagnosed?

Over the past three decades, the incidence of squamous cell carcinomas has increased at a relatively steady pace. The reasons for this surge appear to be sociologic conditions including usage of artificial tanning methods and the increased amount of sun exposure. Primary care physicians can expect to diagnose several cases of squamous cell carcinoma each year.

How is Squamous Cell Carcinoma treated?

Once a lesion has been identified as suspicious for SCC it is usually biopsied to confirm the diagnosis. The method of treatment depends somewhat on the diagnosis, lesion size, morphology, and location, as well as patient compliance Squamous cell carcinomas are usually treated by surgical excision but may also be treated by local destruction including local chemotherapy.

How to prevent Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Clothing provides some protection, but some of the sun’s rays can still penetrate clothing (tightly woven material provides greater protection). Hats with at least a 3-inch brim, that shields the neck, nose, and ears should be worn. The main precautions to remember include:

  • Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or greater while outdoors. Reapply sunscreen every 1 1/2 hours
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sun protective clothing
  • Avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.