Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

SCC is a tumour that arises on the skin and is the second most common form of skin cancer.

Who is most at risk?

SCC is most commonly caused by long-term sun exposure and is prevalent in those with light skin who sunburn easily. Risk increase with age, with those affected normally being over the age of 40. There are less common skin conditions that may cause SCC such as organ transplantation, chronic skin ulcers, prior x-ray treatment, arsenic ingestion and toxic exposure to tars and oils.

How serious is SCC?

If untreated, SCC can destroy the tissue surrounding the tumour and may result in losing a nose or ear. In aggressive cases, especially on the lips and ears, the tumour can spread to the lymph nodes and other organs resulting in death.

What does it look like?

Normally appearing as a crusted or scaly area of the skin with a red, inflamed base, SCC can also appear as a growing tumour, a non-healing ulcer. However, any skin lesions that are not healing, are growing, bleeding or changing in appearance should be evaluated. SCC’s are normally found on the face, neck, arms, scalp, ears and backs of hands. They can, however, be found anywhere on the body including the lips, inside the mouth and on genitalia. A skin biopsy for microscopic

Treatment options

There are a number of different treatments that are used depending on location, size and microscopic characteristics of the tumour. The health of the patient and other factors, are also considered. Most options are office-based, minor procedures using local anaesthesia. Surgical excision to remove the entire cancer is most commonly chosen.

‘Mohs’ micrographic surgery, a more involved method, can be used to remove the whole tumour while sparing as much normal skin as
possible. Other treatments include laser surgery, cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen, radiation therapy and electrodesiccation and
curettage (ED&C).

Prevention

Sun damage starts in childhood and poor protection puts children at risk for skin cancer later in life. However you are never to old to practice sun safe behavior.

– Avoid excessive sunlight exposure, particularly between 10am – 4pm
– Wear sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
– Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher, apply 30mins before exposure and reapply every 90mins when outdoor (even on cloudy days)