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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. Although it is usually not life-threatening, it can be aggressive in some cases.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

1. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are generally non life-threatening

For most people, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is not life-threatening. It tends to be localized to a part of the body but can spread to other parts on occasion. As with most skin cancers, prevention and early detection is key. Although this skin cancer is is highly treatable, if given time to grow, it can grow deep damaging nerves, blood vessels, and any tissue or organ in its path. This can change the way you look, and for some people, the change may be disfiguring. As the cancer cells pile up and form a large tumor, the cancer can reach into the bone beneath and causing serious complications, even proving fatal.

2. SCCs have various risk factors

As with most skin cancers, SCCs are generally caused by sun exposure and damage to skin cells due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. SCCs are studied widely around the world since they are so common. Several factors increase the risk of a SCC.

  • Age and sex: SCCs are particularly prevalent in elderly males. However, they also affect females and younger adults

  • Previous SCC or other forms of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, melanoma)

  • Repeated prior episodes of sunburn

  • Fair skin, blue eyes, and blond or red hair

  • Previous skin injury, thermal burn, or disease

  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, arsenic, or immune suppression due to disease or medicines

That said, SCCs can occur in men and women of all ages and skin types.

3. Diagnosis is relatively straightforward

With the help of dermascopy, a board-certified dermatologist can diagnose one or more SCCs during a skin examination. A biopsy may be performed.

Physician examining skin using a dermatoscope

4. Various treatments are available

Treatment for SCCs generally involves cryotherapy to remove the damaged skin cells. These are generally located in the epidermis layer. Epidermis regenerates from surrounding cells that have not suffered sun damage. Other treatments can involve surgical excision (cutting and removing), chemical peels, or cauterizing (burning). The choice of treatment depends upon the size of the cancer, its location, how long you have had the tumor, and how much scarring is likely to occur with each treatment. Scarring is generally minimal and our dermatologist recommends a treatment plan to minimize or remove scarring and prevent recurrence.

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