Squamous cell carcinoma

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Overview

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layers of the skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is usually not life-threatening, though it can be aggressive. Untreated, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin can grow large or spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.

Most squamous cell carcinomas of the skin result from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from sunlight or from tanning beds or lamps. Avoiding UV light helps reduce your risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and other forms of skin cancer.

Squamous cells are found in many places in your body, and squamous cell carcinoma can occur anywhere squamous cells are found. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin refers to cancer that forms in the squamous cells found in the skin.

Symptoms

A firm, red nodule.

A flat sore with a scaly crust.

A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer.

A rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore.

A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth.

A red, raised patch or wartlike sore on or in the anus or on your genitals.

Causes

Fair skin. ...

Excessive sun exposure. ...

Use of tanning beds. ...

A history of sunburns. ...

A personal history of precancerous skin lesions. ...

A personal history of skin cancer. ...

Weakened immune system. ...

Rare genetic disorder.

Risk factors

Fair skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. ...

Excessive sun exposure. ...

Use of tanning beds. ...

A history of sunburns. ...

A personal history of precancerous skin lesions. ...

A personal history of skin cancer. ...

Weakened immune system. ...

Rare genetic disorder.

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Complications

Untreated squamous cell carcinoma of the skin can destroy nearby healthy tissue, spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and may be fatal, although this is uncommon.

The risk of aggressive squamous cell carcinoma of the skin may be increased in cases where the cancer:

Is particularly large or deep

Involves the mucous membranes, such as the lips

Occurs in a person with a weakened immune system, such as someone who takes anti-rejection medications after an organ transplant or someone who has chronic leukemia

Prevention

To help reduce your risk of cSCC, follow these tips when possible:

Limit your sun exposure.

Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day, which is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Wear sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 whenever you go out in the sun.

Wear sunglasses with UV ray protection.

Wear a hat and cover your skin when working outside.

Avoid using tanning beds and lamps.

Protect your skin during winter as well because winter UV rays can be especially dangerous.

Check your skin each month for any new or abnormal growths.

See a dermatologist once per year for a full-body skin check.