Squamous Cell Skin Cancer




Squamous cell skin cancer is one of the types of tumor that starts at the squamous cells of your skin, which also known as keratinocytes. They are the main structural cells of the upper layer -- the epidermis -- of your skin.

Two out of 10 cases of skin cell carcinomas are squamous cell types. Most affect only the tissues nearby but some forms can spread to other organs.

Over 250,000 new squamous cell carcinoma cases are diagnosed every year. It is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma but milder compared to melanoma.


Who are at risk for squamous cell carcinoma?

Men have twice the risk of developing squamous cell than women. It is often diagnosed among those who are 70 or older with history of too much sun exposure.

If you are fair skinned, you burn more easily. This makes you more susceptible to developing cancer in your squamous cells. If you either work or spend your leisure time outdoors most of the time, you are also more prone to getting it.


Where is squamous cell skin cancer found?

It is usually found on your body parts that are exposed to sunlight like your face, lips, back of your hands and your neck. It can also be seen in your anal or genital area but this happens rarely.


What are the signs or symptoms of squamous cell carcinomas?

It has a thick, scaly and irregular appearance. It starts as a red patch with scaly, crusted surface which does not heal. As it grows, the tumor becomes hard and protruded.

It looks like a crusted lump on your skin. Later, it becomes an open sore that goes deeper and spreads to the fatty tissues underlying the epidermis.

Bowen disease is the earliest form of squamous cell skin cancer. It is a non-invasive type. Cancerous cells are confined fully within the epidermis.


What are the causes of squamous cell carcinomas?

  • Chronic sun exposure - Overexposure to the sun for long periods is the number one cause.

  • Actinic Keratoses - This is a pre-cancerous condition that may give rise to squamous cell cancer. It is also due to overexposure to radiation from the sun.

  • Skin injuries - Examples are...
    • burns,
    • scars,
    • lesions,
    • long-standing sores,
    • chronic infections,
    • inflammed skin, and
    • skin previously exposed to radiation from X-rays or chemicals like arsenic and petroleum by-products.

  • Human Papilloma Virus infection - HPV belongs to the list of human viruses that can cause cancer. It does not only result to tumors in the cervix but also in the squamous cells located in the anal and genital skin.

Can prevention be done? Fortunately yes. Common sense is all it takes. The number one rule of prevention is to avoid being under the sun especially during the period it is at its most dangerous.


What are the treatment options?

Treatments are varied depending on the stage the tumor is discovered. Types of treatment include...

  • scraping and burning of the tumor with an electric needle,

  • cutting the tumor out,

  • application of chemotherapy drugs on the tumor,

  • Mohs Micrographic surgery, and

  • radiation.


What is the prognosis for squamous carcinomas?

The forms that are likely to spread are those that begin on the lips and ears. If found early, treatment can be successful but unfortunately, it can recur even after surgery. Those on nose, ears and lips are more likely to recur.

If the tumor has already spread to other organs, squamous cell skin cancer can be fatal and very difficult to treat.



Other Pages You Might Like:


How to Prevent Skin Cancer with UPF Clothing

3 Types of Skin Cancers

New Moles are Signs of Melanoma



Return from Squamous Cell Skin Cancer to What is Skin Cancer

Return to Cancer Prevention Home




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