Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a common skin cancer. It results from the uncontrolled growth of the superficial skin cells. It is most common on the face, ears, nose, scalp, lips, arms, legs, and hands. It can also occur under fingernails and toenails and on the genitals. It is most common in older people but can occur in young adults. The most common cause of squamous cell cancers is repeated sun exposure and sun burns, as well as tanning bed use. Other causes are a suppressed immune system, radiation treatments, certain chemical exposures, smoking, and injuries to the skin. Squamous cell tumors indicate an increased risk for other types of skin cancer.

Although usually limited to the skin, squamous cell carcinoma can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body and to lymph nodes and become a very serious medical problem. Tumors that develop on the lips, ears, nose and genitals have a particularly high risk to spread. Most tumors grow slowly over time, but some can develop rapidly over several weeks.

If treated early, most squamous cell cancers are curable. If one is suspected, a dermatologist will do a biopsy by taking a piece of the tumor and examining it under a microscope. Treatments include: simple surgical excision, Mohs surgery, surgical skin scraping, radiation, or the application of prescription medical creams.