What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer in the United States. It usually arises in sun exposed areas and appears as a red, scaly sore or growth that may itch or bleed.

These red, scaly patches are referred to as actinic keratosis (AKs). About 10 percent of AKs turn into SCC.

actinic keratosis

There is no way to know ahead of time which ones will evolve into squamous cell carcinoma. Fortunately, we have many effective treatments for eliminating AKs and prevent SCC.

If caught early, most Squamous cell skin cancers are successfully treated. However, unlike other types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma can spread locally into surrounding tissue, bones, and lymph nodes and may lead to death.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is usually found on sun exposed areas including face, ears, scalp, and hands. But it can also appear on mucous membranes or other non sun exposed areas. People with lots of sun damage or history of tanning bed use are higher risk of these cancers.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma can include surgical excision and/or MOHS surgery, and electrodessication with curettage. In advanced or aggressive cases radiation or chemotherapy may be warranted.




Your best defenses against squamous cell carcinoma is prevention and protection. You should have a full body skin cancer check annually, and see your dermatologist immediately if you notice any new or evolving spots. You will want to discuss preventative treatments to decrease any precancerous changes in your skin. Laser treatments, such as Fraxel Dual and light therapies such as Photodynamic Therapy are FDA approved for the treatment of actinic keratosis that can lead to squamous cell carcinoma.
Daily sunscreen use, sun protective clothing and avoiding sun exposure between peak times of 10 am to 2pm will also prove instrumental in the prevention of squamous cell carcinoma.

To schedule your full body skin exam, or to learn more about the preventative treatments offered at Dermatology & Laser of Del Mar contact us.

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