What is squamous cell carcinoma?

This is a type of skin cancer. This is the second most common type of skin cancer seen in the UK after basal cell carcinoma (also known as a rodent ulcer). Commonly affects patients over the age of 55. Men are three times more likely to get squamous cell carcinoma than women. The cancer commonly develops on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun. However it can develop on the skin anywhere in the body including the lips and genitalia.

If the condition is not detected and treated early it can spread beyond the skin to other parts of the body (known as metastatic disease).

What causes squamous cell carcinoma?

In squamous cell carcinoma, the predominant cell type of the skin known as keratinocytes divide uncontrollably and in a haphazard manner.

Risk factors include; increased ultraviolet exposure and skin damage, exposure to other radiation, smoking, industrial toxins (coal, tar), human papilloma virus and genetic factors

What are the symptoms?

  • Crusted ulcer
  • Red and inflamed
  • Some may appear nodular shaped
  • Commonly seen in the forearm, hand, scalp, neck and face

How can squamous cell carcinoma be treated?

  • First line curative treatment is surgery to remove the tumour leaving a clean healthy (non cancerous) margin of cells behind
  • Radiotherapy can be used to treat tumours on the scalp

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