Squamous cell skin cancer is a type of tumor that affects the skin.
Squamous cell cancer occurs when cells in the skin start to change. The changes may begin in normal skin or in skin that has been injured or inflamed. Most skin cancers occur on skin that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer is most often seen in people over age 50.
Squamous cell carcinoma in situ (also called Bowen's disease) is the earliest form of squamous cell cancer. The cancer has not yet invaded surrounding tissue. It appears as large reddish patches (often larger than 1 inch) that are scaly and crusted.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin lesion. In rare cases it may become a squamous cell cancer.
Risks for squamous cell skin cancer include:
Squamous cell cancer spreads faster than basal cell cancer, but still may be relatively slow-growing. Rarely, it can spread (metastasize) to other locations, including internal organs.
The main symptom of squamous cell skin cancer is a growing bump that may have a rough, scaly surface and flat reddish patches.
The bump is usually located on the face, ears, neck, hands, or arms, but may occur on other areas.
A sore that does not heal can be a sign of squamous cell cancer. Any change in an existing wart, mole, or other skin lesion could be a sign of skin cancer.
Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.
If skin cancer is a possibility, a piece of skin will be removed from the area and examined under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. A biopsy must be done to confirm the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma or other skin cancers.
There are many types of skin biopsies. The exact procedure depends on the location of the suspected skin cancer.
See also: Actinic keratosis for treatment information
Skin cancer has a high cure rate if it is treated early. Treatment depends on how big the tumor is, its location, and how far it has spread (metastasis).
Most (95%) of squamous cell tumors can be cured if they are removed promptly. New tumors may develop, however. If you have had squamous cell cancer, have your skin regularly examined by your health care provider.
The outlook depends on a number of factors, including the type of cancer and how quickly it was diagnosed. Squamous cell carcinoma only rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Some squamous cell skin cancers may be more difficult to treat or can spread. This risk may depend on:
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you see the sore change in:
Also call if you have pain, inflammation, bleeding, or itching of an existing skin sore.
Reduce your sun exposure. Protect your skin from the sun by wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
Sunlight is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to limit exposure during these hours.
Use high-quality sunscreens, preferably with sun protection factor (SPF) ratings of at least 30 that protect against both UVA and UVB sunlight. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and reapply frequently. Use a sunscreen throughout the year, even during the winter. Use a waterproof formula.
Other important facts to help avoid too much sun exposure:
Examine the skin regularly for any new suspicious growths or changes in an existing skin sore. A new growth that forms an ulcer or is slow to heal is suspicious.
Suspicious changes in an existing growth include:
Cancer - skin - squamous cell; Skin cancer - squamous cell; Nonmelanoma skin cancer - squamous cell; NMSC - squamous cell