Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a form of skin cancer that arises from the squamous cells, which are found in the middle and outer layers of the skin. It typically presents as a red, scaly patch, a firm lump, or a sore that heals and then reopens. While generally less aggressive than melanoma, SCC can be more serious than basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and has the potential to spread if not treated promptly. A related condition, Bowen’s disease or SCC in situ, is an early stage of SCC where the cancer cells are confined to the outer layer of the skin.

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Key Points

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the squamous cells of the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. It often forms in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, and back of the hands.

Who gets squamous cell carcinoma?

SCC is more common in individuals with fair skin and a history of extensive sun exposure. People who have used indoor tanning beds, have a weakened immune system, or have a history of skin cancer are at increased risk.

Clinical features

SCC typically appears as a firm, pink nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. It can also cause a new sore or ulcer. The lesion may be tender or bleed easily.

Diagnosis and differential diagnosis

Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination and a biopsy of the lesion. Differential diagnosis includes basal cell carcinoma, keratoacanthoma, and benign keratoses.

Impact and complications

If not treated, SCC can grow large or spread to other parts of the body, causing serious complications. It’s more likely than BCC to invade fatty tissues beneath the skin or metastasise.

Treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma

Treatment of SCC depends on the size, location, and aggressiveness of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery is often the first and only step required. Radiation therapy may be used for some types of SCC. Targeted therapy and chemotherapy are used for advanced SCC’s that have spread. Early treatment typically leads to a good prognosis. Regular skin checks are important for detecting recurrences or new cancers.

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