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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?


Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a non-melanoma skin cancer that occurs when the squamous cells found in the upper layer of the skin, are damaged. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps are the most common causes. Squamous Cell Carcinoma gets its name because it affects the top layer of the skin, the Squamous layer.

Higher-risk individuals have been identified as those with fairer skin or a weakened immune system from an organ transplant or other medical condition; however, anyone who has a family history of skin cancer or excessive exposure to UV rays over time is at risk of developing a skin cancer like Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symptoms


The first indication of Squamous Cell Carcinoma is typically a bump on the skin that is also red or flaky and may hurt, itch, or bleed easily. While it most often affects areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, lips, neck, ears, and arms, and legs, it can also manifest in other areas of the body, such as the genitals or anus where they most commonly caused by Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.

Although Squamous Cell Carcinoma grows slowly, they can penetrate deep into the skin, eventually impacting the underlying tissues such as blood vessels, lymph nodes, or even bones, making it difficult to treat.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment


If addressed before it has extended deeper into the skin, treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma can be highly effective.

A biopsy will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and help to identify the most appropriate treatment plan. Treatment options for Squamous Cell Carcinoma can include:

  • Electrodessication and Curettage: A combination of scraping or shaving the affected layers of skin, and using heat or a chemical agent to destroy any remaining cancer.
  • Topical Treatments: Used for Squamous Cell Carcinoma that has not extended far into the skin, the application of creams or gels onto the affected area can destroy the cancerous cells over time.
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery (Mohs Surgery): Cutting out the skin layer by layer until the entire skin cancer is removed.
  • Excisional Surgery: Removal of the cancerous skin, as well as a margin of surrounding skin to fully clear the cancerous cells.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): The combination of a topical agent that makes the affected area sensitive to light, and applying a blue light or laser to destroy the cancerous cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: Using low-energy X-ray beams to destroy the cancerous cells, typically with a series of treatment sessions.
  • Laser Surgery: Using intense heat or light to destroy the cancerous cells, typically without injuring the surface of the skin.

Learn more about how we treat different types of skin cancers.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Prevention


You can take steps to prevent Squamous Cell Carcinoma by applying a 30+ SPF sunscreen thoroughly, especially on your ears, face, neck, forearms, legs, and hands. An SPF lip moisturizer or chapstick is also recommended for periods of sun exposure – and don’t forget about the top of your head! If you can’t apply sunscreen directly to your scalp, wear a hat, especially one with SPF protection.

Having regular skin checks and being aware of changes to your skin are also great defenses against skin cancers like Squamous Cell Carcinoma.