In Skin Cancer

When you are planning a day at the beach or enjoying the outdoors on a hike, making sure you have sunscreen may not be on the top of your list. Your skin’s health must be a priority to help avoid skin cancer. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a prevalent form of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans develop skin cancer before they reach the age of 70. An even more shocking statistic is that more than two people living in the United States die of skin cancer every hour. To help you avoid SCC and recognize the symptoms, here is some information about Squamous Cell Carcinoma and how to identify it.

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous Cell Carcinoma or SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. Damaging exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and tanning beds are the primary causes. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that make up a portion of the skin’s surface. Squamous Cell Carcinoma develops when the DNA of these flat, thin cells change. If the cancer is not diagnosed in the early stages, it spreads throughout the body to the tissues, bones and lymph nodes.

To understand more about Squamous Cell Carcinoma, you need to know about basal cells. These cells are the innermost layer of the epidermis and their primary function is to create new skin cells when older skin cells die. When these basal cells produce new skin cells, it pushes the older ones towards the outermost layer of the skin. This pushing up of the cells causes them to flatten, thus creating squamous cells.

What are the risk factors of squamous cell carcinoma?

There are several risk factors you should know about to protect yourself against SCC. Like most diseases, genetics play a role in this type of skin cancer. For example, if you have fair skin or have blonde or red hair, you are at a higher risk of developing SCC. Those who are older are at more risk of developing skin cancer as well. Spending hours outdoors without wearing sunscreen will increase your chances of getting SCC. The Skin Cancer Foundation determined that you are twice as more likely to develop skin cancer if you have had five or more sunburns.

What are the symptoms?

The sooner you detect Squamous Cell Carcinoma, the better chance you have of recovering from it. Early detection is vital, especially with this type of skin cancer, since it can spread to other areas of your body. The first sign of Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the appearance of dome-shaped bumps on your skin. They are not just pimples as they are often crusty, red and scaly. These growths can also itch and bleed easily if irritated. 

How is squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed?

First, your dermatologist will ask your medical history then examine your skin for abnormal bumps. If there is concern about any growths or abnormalities, your doctor will perform a biopsy. To do this, they will take a bit of the abnormal skin and test it for cancer in their laboratory.

What is the treatment?

The patient’s age, overall health and severity of the affected skin are how doctors choose the best treatment option. The most common method doctors use to treat SCC is through minor surgery, where they cut out skin affected by cancer. Other methods to treat SCC are Mohs surgery, topical chemotherapy using a gel or cream and radiation therapy.

What is the prognosis?

The American Cancer Society has found that Squamous Cell Carcinoma has a higher likelihood of reoccurring than other skin cancers. Most SCC cancers undergo treatment early on. Studies show that 95 to 98 percent of these cases are successful.

How is it prevented?

The best way to prevent Squamous Cell Carcinoma is to protect your skin against the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays and avoid tanning beds. When you expose unprotected skin to these conditions, it damages the skin cells’ DNA. This damage makes the cells multiply uncontrollably. Other ways to lessen your chance of developing SCC is by wearing sunglasses or a hat to protect your face. It is also essential to conduct regular checks of your skin for abnormal growths.

Because Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, you should make sure to protect yourself against the sun when you spend extended periods outside. If left untreated, SCC can spread throughout your body. To prevent damage to yourself and those you love, take the time to wear sunscreen and practice other protective measures. As always, make an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists if you are in the least bit concerned.

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