squamous cell carcinomasquamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It is on the rise because of increased exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common. They are both non-melanoma skin cancers. Both of these forms of skin cancer are preventable and treatable.
Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) will usually present as a red scaly patch or crusty area on your skin, a red nodule, or an ulcer that won’t heal. It is usually found where sun exposure occurs.
You should see a doctor if you have a sore that does not heal in two weeks or a patch of crusty skin that won’t go away.
High Risk Factors
Some people are more at risk for SCC than others. Higher risk individuals include those with:
- Fair skin
- Blond or red hair
- Green or blue eyes
- Excessive exposure to UV radiation
- A weakened immune system
- A diagnosis of actinic keratoses
- Exposure to arsenic or coal tar products
- Radiation treatment
- A family history of skin cancer
Men are more likely to develop SCC than women, as are older adults.
Causes of SCC
Skin is made up of the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutis layers. Within these layers, squamous cells are found below the outer surface and basal cells are at the bottom of the epidermis layer.
New skin cells are made by the basal cells. They push old cells up to the surface where they are sloughed off and replaced by the new ones. This process is regulated by your DNA, and if it is damaged, then the process does not work right and the cells will grow out of control - creating CSS and basal cell carcinoma.
The DNA can be damaged by the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds and the sun. The damage is cumulative, so your risk increases when you are in the sun at certain times of the day when the rays are the strongest.
There is also a connection between SCC and medications that prevent organ rejection. Eighty percent of patients on immunosuppressant drugs will develop SCC; but, symptoms may not appear for years after surgery.
Squamous cell carcinoma is usually not a problem if it is caught and treated early. If left untreated, it can grow and spread to other parts of the body and create serious problems.
After SCC has been confirmed with a biopsy, there are several treatment options that will be chosen depending on the location, size, patient health, and other factors:
- Simple surgery to remove the cancer
- Mohs surgery to remove the cancer tumor by layers, examining each one under a microscope before proceeding, allowing the least amount of healthy skin to be removed
- Cryosurgery, which is basically freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen
- Electrodesiccation, which is cauterizing
- Laser therapy, which uses a focused beam of light
- Radiation therapy is used on large cancers that are hard to treat with surgery
- Medications that can be applied topically
Prevention from Squamous Cell Carcinoma
There are some things you can do to prevent squamous cell carcinoma:
- Avoiding the sun between 10 am and 4 pm is important as is remembering that UV rays are present on cloudy days and all year long.
- Remember that the sun’s rays are stronger when they reflect off of water, snow, or sand.
- Use sunscreen all the time
- Wear protective clothing that is tightly woven
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat
- Avoid tanning beds and opt for self tanning lotions or sprays
- Be aware that certain drugs make you more sensitive to the sun.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes antioxidants
- Check your skin regularly
Squamous cell carcinoma is on the rise; but, it can be avoided or treated.