‘Skin cancer’ is an umbrella term used to describe a number of possible abnormal growths originating from cells resident in the skin. The different variants of skin cancer are given their names based on the type of skin cell from which they originate.
The skin has two very distinct layers, known as the epidermis (the uppermost layer) and the dermis. The subcutaneous fat lies below the dermis. Skin cancer most commonly develops in the epidermis. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (usually called SCC) comes from the skin cells that form the topmost layers of the skin – known as the squamous cells. SCC accounts for only 10% or less of all incidences of skin cancer. In rare instances, if it is allowed to grow large enough, it may metastasise (spread to other tissue) and prove fatal.
Causes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Most forms of skin cancer are avoidable. Unlike many other forms of cancer, skin cancer can be prevented by simple behaviours and habits. Everything from the use of sun block at an early age to regular self and/or dermatological exams can help to keep risks to minimal levels. This is particularly true of squamous cell carcinoma, which may be associated with:
- Exposure to UV radiation (sunlight)
- Genetic history of SCC
- Thermal burn scars
- Leg ulcers (chronic)
- Use of immunosuppressant drugs
One of the most commonly known precursors of SCC are actinic keratoses; rough or scaly spots on the skin that are caused directly by prolonged exposure to the sun. Actinic keratoses may be treated with cryotherapy or agents such topical 5-flurouracil, imiquimod, ingenol mebutate or photodynamic therapy using a photosensitier such as amino-levulinic acid. Early actinic keratoses may be monitored, without the use of any active therapy. The use of a regular broad-spectrum sunscreen is paramount.
It is imperative that anyone at risk of SCC visit a dermatologist to get a thorough skin examination. SCCs are commonly managed with surgery. In situ, or very early SCCs may be treated with non-surgical measures, including photodynamic therapy or prescription chemotherapeutic agents. Careful follow-up, with regular visits to the dermatologist to check for recurrence or new lesions may be recommended.
If you have any questions or concerns about squamous cell carcinoma, contact us today.