Concerned You May Have Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Your Local Dermatologist Can Help

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma and What Does It Look Like?

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer. It appears on the skin in a variety of sizes and shapes, such as dome-shaped growths that may bleed, bumps that feel crusty, flat patches that are red and rough, and sores that won’t heal. 

Repeated sun exposure is a common cause of SCC, especially on the head, face, neck, arms, legs and hands. SCC can also show up inside the mouth or on genitalia, and can be associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s also possible for SCC to start as growths known as actinic keratosis (AK). Both SCC and AKs are dry, scaly and rough-textured.

Who Gets Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Everyone can get SCC, but it is more common with those who:

  • Have with lighter hair, skin and eyes (fair skin, red or blond hair, blue or green eyes).
  • Use indoor tanning devices.
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors for work or leisure without sunscreen or covering with clothing.
  • Are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals (coal tar, some insecticides or herbicides).
  • Use tobacco products.
  • Have been diagnosed with AK.
  • Have an ulcer or sore on your skin for many months or years.
  • Have received an organ transplant.
  • Have been infected with HPV in the anogenital area.
  • Have received many PUVA light treatments.
  • Suffer from xeroderma, pigmentosum, epidermolysis bullosa or albinism.
  • Take medications that increase sun sensitivity.

Reducing Your Risk 

If you’ve been diagnosed with SCC, you’re also at risk for developing other skin cancers, such as melanoma. To prevent skin cancer development:

  • Dress appropriately in the sun. Wear lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. 
  • Use shade. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Reapply sun screen every two hours or so, even on cloudy days, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Be cautious around snow, sand and water. These reflect and intensify UV rays and increase the risk of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Just one indoor tanning session can increase your risk for skin cancer.
  • Keep all your dermatologist appointments. When detected early, skin cancer is highly treatable.
  • Perform self-exams on your skin. Check yourself regularly for any growths or spots that seem questionable and keep track of moles and freckles.

Diagnosing and Treating Squamous Cell Carcinoma


When found early, SCC is very treatable. Diagnosing is typically done with a skin biopsy. A skin tissue sample (usually part or all of the suspected BCC) will be taken and microscopically examined to confirm the presence of cancer cells. 

Treatment depends on where the SCC is located, the size of it and your overall health. Treatment options include:

  • Excision involves surgically removing the melanoma, as well as some of the normal-looking skin around the SCC. The removed tissue is then examined microscopically to determine if all cancer cells have been removed.
  • Mohs surgery is the most successful technique for eliminating skin cancer, with a 99% success rate. In this process, the cancer is removed layer by layer in one session until it’s gone. Dermatologists who have completed specialized training in Mohs surgery can perform this procedure.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage removes the cancer by scraping it from the skin (curettage) and then heating the area to destroy leftover cancer cells (electrodessication). 
  • Radiation treatments may be recommended if the patient cannot undergo surgery, the cancer is too aggressive for surgery alone or when surgery isn’t the best option. 
  • Chemotherapy or immunotherapy cream can be prescribed to apply to your skin at home to destroy cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy drugs can help with the treatment of SCC that has spread to other parts of the body. 
  • Chemoprevention can help if you have a condition that has caused multiple SCCs. This oral medication and reduce the likelihood of developing future SCCs.

Biopsy

A biopsy works by taking a small sample of tissue from a suspect area in the body so that it can be tested under lab conditions for certain diseases and disorders. Learn More

Excision

Excision is a minimally-invasive surgery technique used to remove moles, skin growths and lesions. Learn More

Imiquimod

Imiquimod is a topical cream that stimulates the immune system. Learn More

Liquid Nitrogen Cryotherapy

Liquid nitrogen cryotherapy works by freezing and destroying the cells in a skin growth or lesion. Learn More

Mohs

Mohs, or Mohs surgery, is a surgical technique used to treat skin cancer through the removal of skin lesions and growths. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

Surgical Removal Excursion

Surgical removal excursion is a minor surgical procedure used in the treatment of lower risk skin cancers. Learn More

Topical Chemotherapy

Topical chemotherapy works by modifying the body’s immune response. Learn More

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