Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin is a very common type of skin cancer, second only in incidence to basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
Along with BCC, SCC is considered a non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). SCCs arise from the cells of the top layer of skin (the epidermis) that make the protein called keratin. SCCs that are caught early are often limited to the epidermis (SCC in situ, or Bowen’s Disease).
However, in most cases, SCCs are invasive and have grown deeper down beyond the epidermis. If not treated, these tumors can spread to nerves and lymph nodes and even metastasize to other organs.
While fatalities from most cutaneous SCCs are fairly rare, SCCs of the ears, lips, mucosal surfaces, and within old scars are much more dangerous. SCCs can have a variety of appearances, and they can sometimes be painful or bleed.
However, you should never wait for these signs to have a lesion checked, since they can mean that the lesion is actually more advanced.
SCCs are strongly linked to sun exposure. The more sunburns and sun exposure a person has had over his/her lifetime, the higher the chance of developing an SCC.
Many people develop actinic keratoses (AKs), which are small, rough, red scaly lesions before they develop SCCs. AKs are pre-cancers for SCC, and can develop into SCCs if left untreated. Not all SCCs will start as AKs, however, as they can also arise de novo.
- Patients who are immunosuppressed or who have had an organ transplant are at much greater risk for SCCs.
Likewise, anyone who uses tanning beds is at much higher risk for developing SCC. Protecting yourself from the sun by using sun protective clothing, a hat, and sunscreen is a great way to prevent SCCs.
We also strongly encourage everyone to get an annual skin check, since we can detect these cancers early, which makes treating them much easier. Often, we can prevent many SCCs by treating the pre-cancerous lesions.
Call for your skin check appointment today.