The skin is the largest organ in the human body. There are many layers to the skin (epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis), and each layer is constituted of a mesh of specific cell types. The epidermis, the uppermost layer of the skin, is mostly made up of squamous cells. Squamous cells are flat, elongated, and thin. They are found in abundance in the tissue that forms the upper surface of the skin and the lining of the abdomen, respiratory tracts, and hollow regions around the organs.

Uncontrolled growth leading to protrusion of abnormal cells on the cell surface is referred to as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Manifestations of SCC on the skin appear as open sores or scaly red patches of raised growth with a central cavity, or warts. Such scabs can crust and bleed out. Cancers detected in the head, anus, cervix, neck, and vagina are squamous cell carcinomas. SCC is also known as epidermoid carcinoma.

Triggers of SCC

Unlike other cancerous cells, SCC has a protracted growth phase. Also, it is highly malignant and can spread to lymph nodes, bones, and adjoining tissue.

Triggers of SCC include:

  • Predisposition: Many people who have SCC had a gender (males are more susceptible than females) or genetic (inherent DNA) predisposition to it.
  • Exposure to outside factors: UV rays are the primary cause of SCC. Exposure to carcinogens like arsenic, exposure to radiation, and extensive use of tanning bulbs and beds are also prominent causes.
  • Fair skin (low melanin content): SCC can affect any skin type, but those with fair skin, red hair, and light-colored eyes are at a higher risk. Such a skin type develops sun burns and freckles easily. Melanin plays an important role in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of solar radiation; the lower the content, the less the skin is protected.
  • AIDS, HPV, Bowen’s disease, and HIV: Patients who have a compromised immune system are at a higher risk of SCC. Apart from the diseases mentioned, patients who are recent recipients of organ transfer or under immunosuppressant medications are equally susceptible.
  • Rare genetic disorders: A condition called xeroderma pigmentosum increases sensitivity to sunlight. Patients suffering from this condition are at a higher risk.

Indicators of SCC

SCC generally manifests in regions that are constantly exposed to the sun, like the lips, scalp, ears, and backs of hands. SCC can occur in parts of the body like the mouth and genitals. Typical indicators of SCC are the appearance of a red nodule which is firm to touch, scaling of a flat sore, development of a raised sore atop a healing scar, patches along the lining of the lip that evolve into an exposed sore, a persistent sore in the mouth, and a raised red patch in the genitals or anus.

Prevention of SCC

SCC can be prevented by taking protective measures like:

  • Limiting sun exposure in the middle of the day when the sun is at its zenith
  • Protecting the skin with sunscreen and appropriate clothing
  • Avoiding tanning beds
  • Regular skin examinations and an immediate consultation with the doctor after noticing anything unusual

Consult a doctor immediately if you notice a scar that persists after two months without showing any signs of healing.

Come In for a Consultation

A consultation with experienced facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Andrew Compton is the best way to determine whether or not you have Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Dr. Compton will be able to recommend various effective treatment methods. To arrange a consultation, contact us today.