Squamous Cell Carcinoma

There are two main categories of skin cancer: melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the non-melanoma skin cancers. It is the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the cells of the epidermis). SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. They can become disfiguring and sometimes a serious and potentially life threatening condition if allowed to grow. An estimated 700,000 cases of SCC are diagnosed each year in the USA, and between 3,900 and 8,800 people died from the disease in the US in 2012. Incidence of the disease has increased up to 200 percent in the past three decades in the USA.

The most common cause is too much exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun or from sun beds. This causes certain cells (keratinocytes) in one of the layers of the skin to become malignant.

Squamous cell carcinomas can occur on any part of your body, but are most common on areas that are exposed to the sun, such as your head and neck (including the lips and ears) and the backs of your hands. Squamous cell carcinomas can also crop up where the skin has been damaged by X-rays, and also on old scars, ulcers, burns and persistent chronic wounds.

Often the skin in these exposed areas reveals telltale signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, "age spots", loss of elasticity, and broken blood vessels.

Squamous cell carcinomas mainly affect the following groups:

  • Older people who have had more cumulative sun exposure - but younger people who are out in the sun a lot are at risk too.
  • Builders and othe outdoor workers like farmers. People who often use sun-beds can develop squamous cell carcinomas when they are quite young.
  • People with a fair skin.
  • Those whose immune system has been suppressed by medication taken after an organ transplant, or by treatment for leukaemia or a lymphoma.

Make an appointment

Medical Secretary, Arlene McAleese
T: 0203 983 0149