Squamous Cell Carcinoma

About squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a commonly occurring malignant growth derived from epidermal keratinocytes. It appears as an indurated (hard), scaling or crusted plaque or nodule that may ulcerate or bleed. A number of risk factors contribute to the development of squamous cell carcinoma, including exposure to ultraviolet radiation and chemical carcinogens. It is more common in light-skinned people with frequent sun exposure, such as farmers and outdoor laborers. The incidence of the disease increases with proximity to the equator. Not surprisingly, it occurs most often on sun-exposed areas such as the head, neck, and arms. It also can arise in sites of damaged skin or mucous membranes, such as burn injuries. The lower lip is frequently involved as a result of chronic injury from smoking or sun damage. Squamous cell carcinoma can be very locally invasive, and also harbors the capacity to metastasize to distant sites.

With what can squamous cell carcinoma be confused?

Squamous cell carcinoma must be distinguished from basal cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis, warts, keratoacanthoma, seborrheic keratosis, and Bowen’s disease and, on the penis, from erythroplasia of Queyrat.

How is squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed?

Any ulcer that fails to heal should undergo biopsy to rule out squamous cell carcinoma.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?

Excision is the preferred therapy. Small lesions can be effectively destroyed with cryotherapy, curettage or electrodessication, but it is often preferable to obtain a tissue sample. Larger tumors and those on cosmetically sensitive areas, such as the face, may be removed using the Mohs micrographic surgery technique. Sun protection with sunscreen, protective clothing, and sun avoidance is necessary to reduce the risk of further tumors.

What is the prognosis for squamous cell carcinoma?

Only about 2% of squamous cell carcinomas metastasize. Large, poorly differentiated, deeply invading carcinomas and those arising in scars or mucous membranes are more likely to do so.

More on squamous cell carcinoma


Image links

Loyola University Medical education Network: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Cheek

Other useful links

Skin Cancer Foundation: Squamous Cell Carcinoma


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