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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin is the second most common cancer in the world, and accounts for 15% of all skin cancers. SCC is a cancer in the top layer of the skin, and is usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays in the sun or in tanning salons. Squamous cell skin cancers can spread to other parts of the body when left untreated, and death, although rare, can occur. Because they occur most commonly on the face, treatments may lead to a scar in a noticeable location. After having a skin cancer, regular follow up with your dermatologist for skin cancer screening is highly recommended.

Most common locations for a SCC to develop:
◦ Face.
◦ Scalp.
◦ Ears.
◦ Lips.
◦ Neck.
◦ Hands.
◦ Can be on any part of the body.

Signs of an SCC:
◦ Rough bump that may be felt easier than it is seen.
◦ Scaling and roughness.
◦ A thickened bump that may be tender.
◦ It can be wart-like.
◦ It may bleed when scratched.

Treatment for squamous cell skin cancer:
◦ A biopsy must be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
◦ Treatment for SCC depends on the size and location of the lesion, how deep the tumor extends, the health of the patient.
◦ Topical chemotherapy with creams may be useful for very early SCCs, but the tissue is typically not biopsied after treatment to check if any cells remain.
◦ Curettage and electrodesiccation is a simple procedure where the skin cancer is scraped away and the base is cauterized; used most for low-risk tumors on the trunk.
◦ Surgery/Excision is a treatment where the lesion is surgically removed, stitches are placed, and the tissue is sent to the lab for confirmation that it has been completely removed.
◦ Mohs surgery is a specialized form of skin cancer removal where the tumor is removed and the tissue is examined prior to stitch placement; this is used mainly for the face, ears, scalp, hands and genitals, but may also be used if the tumor is very large.
◦ Radiation is useful for very large tumors in patients unable to undergo a large surgical procedure, or in patients where it is difficult to remove all of the tumor.

How to prevent squamous cell skin cancer:
◦ Avoid excessive exposure to the sun all year.
◦ Seek the shade when outdoors.
◦ Avoid the midday sun, between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
◦ Use broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
◦ Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after getting the skin wet.
◦ Do not use tanning beds.

Am I at risk for developing an SCC? Risk factors include:
◦ Fair skin.
◦ History of excessive sun exposure and sunburns.
◦ Personal or family history of skin cancer.
◦ Weakened immune system (eg. cancer or immunosuppressive medications).
◦ Exposure to radiation, arsenic, coal tar, other industrial chemicals.