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Skin Cancer Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About SCC

SCC is a malignant tumour of the keratinising squamous epithelial cells of the skin.

SCC: Incidence, age and sex

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and usually affects the elderly. It is twice as common in men and in white-skinned individuals.

Signs & symptoms of SCC: Diagnosis

Squamous cell carcinoma in situ (also called Bowen's disease) which is the earliest form of squamous cell cancer, appears as large reddish patches that are scaly and crusted.SCC of the skin begins as a small nodule and as it enlarges, the centre becomes necrotic and sloughs and the nodule turns into an ulcer. The lesion caused by SCC is often asymptomatic. A biopsy must be done to confirm the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma or other skin cancers.

Causes and prevention of SCC

It is strongly related to cumulative sun exposure (UV light), chronic inflammation (chronic sinus tracts, pre-existing scars, osteomyelitis, burns, vaccination points) and immunosuppression (organ-transplant recipients). SCC is also caused by chemical carcinogens (arsenicals, tar), radiation exposure and infection with HPV 5 and HPV16. Current and previous tobacco use doubles the relative risk of cutaneous SCC.

SCC: Complications

The overall rate of metastasis is 2% for SCC – usually to regional nodes – with local recurrence rate of 20%.

SCC: Treatment

Surgical excision is the only means. Radiation may be used if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes, or for squamous cell cancers that cannot be treated with surgery.