What is it?
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers.
- It is the second most common form of skin cancer.
- SCCs may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes and genitals, but are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs.
- It affects more than 10 000 Australian each year.
What causes it?
- Chronic sun exposure is the leading cause of squamous cell carcinoma, especially in people with fair skin, light hair and blue, green or grey eyes.
- Other factors that may contribute to the development of this cancer include burns, scars, exposure to radiation or chemicals, chronic inflammatory conditions and immunosuppression.
- It can also be caused by cumulative ultraviolet (UV) exposure over the course of a lifetime; daily year-round exposure to the sun’s UV light, intense exposure in the summer months, and the UV produced by tanning beds.
- 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 deadly if allowed to grow.
How is it treated?
- The first step is for a biopsy to be sent off to confirm that it is a SCC.
- Treatment will depend on the size, location and subtype of SCC it is.
- The most common treatment is an excisional surgery where the physician uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth, along with a surrounding border of apparently normal skin as a safety margin. The wound around the surgical site is then closed with sutures (stitches). The excised tissue specimen is then sent to the laboratory for microscopic examination to verify that all cancerous cells have been removed. A repeat excision may be necessary on a subsequent occasion if evidence of skin cancer is found in the specimen. The accepted cure rate for primary tumors with this technique is about 92 percent. This rate drops to 77 percent for recurrent squamous cell carcinomas.
- Other options for early SCC’s are cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen or topical creams.
How can it be prevented?
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce(2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skinhead-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Call or email us today to book in for your annual skin check up.