What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layers of the skin. It is usually not life-threatening but can be aggressive. Squamous cells are found in many places of the body and squamous cell carcinoma can occur anywhere squamous cells are found. There are ways to prevent squamous cell carcinoma though.
What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs when the flat, thin squamous cells in the middle and outer layers of the skin mutate their DNA. These mutations tell the squamous cells to grow out of control and to continue living when normal cells would die. Most of these mutations are caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from either sunlight or from tanning beds or lamps. Having a weakened immune system can also contribute to squamous cell carcinoma.
Signs & Symptoms
Squamous cell carcinoma can have a few signs and symptoms by having scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression or warts. They might crust or bleed and may become disfiguring or sometimes deadly if allowed to grow. Squamous cell carcinoma can develop anywhere from the mouth to the genitalia. However, it’s most common to develop on the scalp, face, ears, and the back of hands. In rare cases, it can evolve from precancerous to actinic keratosis.
Some risk factors that may increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma are:
- Fair skin.
- Excessive sun exposure.
- Use of tanning beds.
- A history of sunburns.
- A history of precancerous skin lesions, like actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease/
- History of skin cancer, if you’ve had squamous cell carcinoma before it’s most likely to develop again.
- Weakened immune system.
- Rare genetic disorders, like xeroderma pigmentosum which causes sensitivity to sunlight, are at higher risk.
There are ways how to prevent squamous cell carcinoma that include:
- Avoid the sun during the middle of the day.
- Wear sunscreen year-round.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Check your skin on a regular basis and report any changes to your doctor.
There are a few treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma:
- Curettage and desiccation are where the doctor will scrape away cancer cells and then use electricity to burn them.
- Mohs micrographic surgery is the most common method, especially for large tumors with the highest cure rate. Mohs is the removal of cancerous tissue with a microscopic review all while the surgery takes place. Mapping the diseased tissue layer by layer minimizes damage to healthy skin when removing the tumor.
- Surgical excision is another surgical option where the doctor will remove the cancerous squamous skin cells.
- Radiation therapy is only used to treat difficult tumors, because of their location, severity, or persistence.
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