• Squamous Cell Carcinoma

    (Skin cancer-Squamous Cell)


    Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. It is the second most common form of skin cancer.
    The cancer develops in the uppermost layer of skin cells. Squamous cell carcinoma usually grows slowly. It is rarely fatal if treated early. However, the cancer can be lethal if it spreads beyond the skin.
    si55551327 97870 1 squamous cell
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells but it is probably a combination of genetics and the environment.

    Risk Factors

    Areas of skin that are damaged have a higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is more likely to develop skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or exposure to chemicals or radiation.
    Factors that may increase your chance of developing squamous cell carcinoma include:
    • History of radiation or ultraviolet light treatment
    • Childhood sunburns , freckling, or long periods of sun exposure
    • A personal history of skin cancer
    • A family history of skin cancer
    • Blonde or red hair
    • Blue or green eyes
    • Fair skin that rarely tans
    • Treatments or medications that suppress the immune system
    • Frequent use of tanning beds
    • Exposure to cancer causing chemical such as arsenic, tar, or some insecticides
    • Smoking
    • Past infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)


    Symptoms include:
    • A raised red patch that is scaly or rough
    • A raised patch of skin that may appear to have horn-like rough edges
    • In color, the patch may be reddish, pink, flesh-colored, or reddish-brown
    • A long-standing sore that will not heal with simple at-home treatment


    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    The skin growth will be examined. A sample of the growth will be taken and examined for cancer cells. This will help determine the stage and type of the cancer. The information will be used to guide treatment and make a prognosis.


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
    • Mohs micrographic surgery—microscopic surgery that offers the best cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma
    • Removing the growth with simple surgery
    • Plastic surgery to repair any cosmetic problems that occur after treatment
    For people who are not able to have surgery, other treatment options include:
    • Freezing the growth off with liquid nitrogen
    • Laser treatment
    • Radiation therapy
    • Photodynamic therapy—the cells absorb an acid that causes them to die when exposed to light
    • Topical creams, especially fluorouracil or imiquimod


    To help reduce the chance of squamous cell carcinoma:
    • Avoid spending too much time in the sun.
    • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM standard time, or 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM daylight saving time.
    • Protect your skin from the sun with clothing. Wear a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat with a broad brim.
    • Use broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more on skin that will be exposed to the sun.
    • Use a protective lip balm.
    • Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to protect your eyes.
    • Do not use sun lamps or tanning booths.
    • Get regular full-body skin exams by a dermatologist. The doctor will check for moles, freckles, and other growths.


    American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org

    American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery http://www.mohscollege.org


    Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca

    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca


    Alberta Provincial Cutaneous Tumour Team. Prevention of skin cancer. Edmonton (Alberta): CancerControl Alberta; 2013 Feb. 27 p. (Clinical practice guideline; no. CU-014). Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48130#Section420. Accessed February 25, 2015.

    Jerant A, Johnson J, Sheridan CD, Caffrey TJ. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(2):357-368.

    Saraiya M, Glanz K, Briss P, et al. Preventing skin cancer. MMWR. 2003;52(RR15):1-12.

    Squamous cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/squamous-cell-carcinoma. Accessed February 25, 2015.

    Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed February 25, 2015.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2017
    • Update Date: 10/20/2014
  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.