Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second-most common type of skin cancer (after basal cell carcinoma, but more common than melanoma). It usually occurs in areas exposed to the sun. Sunlight exposure and immunosuppression are risk factors for SCC of the skin, with chronic sun exposure being the strongest risk factor.[ The risk of metastasis (spreading throughout the body) is low, but is higher than with basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell cancers of the lip and ears have high rates of local recurrence and distant metastasis. Squamous cell cancers of the skin in individuals on immunotherapy or suffering from lymphoproliferative disorders (i.e. leukemia) tend to be much more aggressive, regardless of their location.
Squamous cell carcinomas usually appear as thick rough scaly persistent lesions or sores that may bleed. Any sore lasting over 6 weeks should be evaluated by a dermatologist to ensure rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treatment often consists of complete surgical excision with stitches which is performed right in the office. A very small lesion may warrant only a scraping and cautery. Larger lesions, those which are recurrent, or those in surgically difficult areas may require referral to a Mohs’ surgeon.
After treatment, it is imperative that the patient use appropriate measures to protect their skin from the sun, and to have regular skin examinations.