Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 700,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with SCC each year and it is estimated that 2,500 people die each year from this type of cancer. Most of these types of cancers can be cured when identified and treated early.
The following are ten things that you may not know about SCC:
Bowen’s disease is the earliest form of SCC. At this stage, it appears as a red, scaly patch, most often showing up on areas of the body most exposed to the sun. It can often be mistaken for a rash, eczema, fungus or psoriasis and is usually diagnosed with a biopsy. Bowen’s disease is a surface form of skin cancer which has not spread to other areas of the body.
While SCC, like other skin cancers, can be the result of years of over-exposure to the sun, those with light-colored skin, blue or green eyes or blond or red hair have a higher risk of developing SCC.
This type of cancer occurs twice as often in men than in women and is more common in the southern U.S. and countries further south.
SCC can occur on any area of the body but is most commonly found on the face, ears, neck, scalp, hands or arms - those areas most exposed to the sun’s rays. The rim of the ear and lower lip may be especially vulnerable to this type of cancer.
Besides sun exposure, other causes of SCC include injury to the skin, such as sores or burns, over-exposure to x-rays, skin exposed to chemicals, reduced immune system and HPV.
SCC may grow slowly but can spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes.
One of the most effective methods of removing SCCs is Mohs surgery. In this procedure, doctors remove one layer of the tumor at a time, looking at each layer through a microscope until all layers have been removed. This type of surgery prevents excessive removal of the healthy skin around the tumor and must be done by a doctor experienced in this type of surgery.
For SCC that has not penetrated below the skin, there are chemotherapy creams or lotions which are applied directly to the lesion. There can be side effects to these types of treatment, including skin irritation, inflammation and scarring.
Besides Mohs surgery and chemotherapy lotions, other treatment options include simple excision, radiation, chemotherapy and cyrotherapy.
When not treated, SCCs can result in complications, disfiguring or sometimes death.
Because all skin cancers are potentially life-threatening, it is important to know the risk factors and be aware of any changes in moles or lesions on your body so you can seek medical help as soon as possible. Early identification and treatment can prevent any damage from squamous cell carcinoma.
“Bowen’s Disease,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
“Skin Cancer,” 2011, Staff Writer, College of American Pathologists
“Skin Cancer Facts,” Date Unknown, Reviewed by David Polsku, M.D., The Skin Cancer Foundation
"Sqaumous Cell Carcinoma, Updated 2011, July 26, Updated by Kevin Berman, M.D. MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health
“Squamous Cell Carcinoma,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.