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Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

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SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer and is mainly seen in individuals with chronic exposure to the sun. It is important to be able to recognize this form of skin cancer because it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body and can be locally destructive. It is commonly seen in fair skinned and elderly individuals with long term sun exposure. Other risk factors for the development of SCC include: male sex, exposure to chemical carcinogens (such as arsenic and tar), immunosuppression, ionizing radiation, scarred skin, infection with specific HPV subtypes and history of other skin cancers.

SCC is generally a slow growing tumor that tends to grow without physical symptoms. However, some forms of this cancer may be fast growing and painful, especially when the lesions are large. They may become irritated and bleed. Typically, lesions are flesh colored to pink raised spots that may have overlying scale and crust. Some may look like warts especially ones close to the fingers and some may look like they have an overlying horn. The majority occur on the head and neck, but also occur on the upper extremities and other sun exposed areas. SCC occurring on the lips may appear as a new red bump or redness and crust in an existing dry spot. High risk areas for cancer that will spread include the lips, ears and nose.

One should regularly do self checks and if one notices that a lesion is growing or not healing one should see their dermatologist. Many treatment options exist depending on the size, location and characteristics of the SCC and also on the patient profile. Surgical excision or Mohs micrographic surgery (a method used by specially trained dermatologist) may be used to remove the SCC. Other treatment options include: Cryotherapy (freezing the spot), ED&C (scraping and burning), laser and radiation.

Sun protection is the most important factor in prevention of SCCs. However, diligent self examinations and visits to the dermatologist can be very important in treatment and prevention.