Squamous Cell Cancer – Its Types, Symptoms, and Causes

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer on the skin which later results in the growth of squamous cells formed at the inside and outside layers of the skin. This type of cell cancer is not usually life-threatening but it can become aggressive in not treated on time. In case the growth is not stopped on time, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin can affect other body parts as well which if left untreated can result in major complications. In most of the cases, squamous cell carcinoma is caused due to staying under the exposure of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can happen due to directly exposed under the Sun or can happen due to tanning beds or lamps as well. By avoiding direct exposure to harmful UV lights, the chances of growth of cell of any other kind of skin cancer can be avoided up to a significant level.

These cells are found at different body parts and this kind of cell can occur anywhere squamous cells are found. Basically, Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin means cancer which is formed in the squamous cells found in the skin.

Symptoms of Squamous cell cancer

One of the main reasons for the existence of this type of cancer is getting exposed to Sun, when our skin gets directly exposed under Sun, our hands, ears or our lips, then we can have higher chances of squamous cell cancer. But apart from these parts, this type of cancer can affect any of our body parts which includes area inside our mouth, our feet and on the genital areas as well. Some of the common symptoms of this kind of cancer of the skin are mentioned below:

  • Firm and a red nodule
  • A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer
  • Dry patch near the lip that will result in an open sore
  • Red sore that is developed in mouth
  • Red or a raised patch on or in the anus or on your genitals

When to consult a doctor

In case you have sore or scab that is not getting healed within two months as well, or there is a flat patch of scaly skin is not getting cured with time, then its high time, you need to consult your doctor to know the exact causes and cure of this type of cancer.

Causes of this type of cancer

Chances of the growth of this kind of skin cancer on the skin is mainly when there is a flat and thin squamous cells present inside the middle and outer layers of your skin which later result in changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA has the instructions which inform cell what to do and in this case, mutations informs the squamous cells to grow beyond control and to continue living especially when the normal cells would die. Majority of the mutations in skin cells are due to getting exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation which are present in sun rays and in tanning lamps and tanning beds used at the commercial areas. But in every case we can’t say that sun exposure is only reason of developing this kind of cancer, especially when your skin is not getting directly exposed to Sunlight. It clearly means that there are some other factors which might result in the risk of skin cancer, which can result in weaken the digestive system of your body.

Risk factors

Some of the factors which are responsible for boosting the chances of this type of skin cancer are mentioned below:

Skim – Regardless of skin color, this type of cancer can affect the skin; especially when there are lesser pigment (melanin) in anybody’s skin which clearly indicates that will be least protected under the sun.

More sun exposure- IN case you get exposed under the Sun for more number of hours, chances of this type of cancer gets increased significantly. You are advised to apply sunblock creams or cover your face with cloth, in case you are going out during the day time. You also need to wear sunglasses that will offer added protection to your skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

Use of tanning beds- People with higher usage of these beds have a higher chance of this type of carcinoma of the skin as compared to the ones who don’t use such kind of tanning beds at all.

Sunburns in the past- In case you have a history of higher number of sunburns when you was a child, then it increases your risk of developing cell cancer again as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood is also one of the reason which can result in Squamous cell cancer once you grow up.

History of precancerous skin lesions- Having a precancerous skin lesion including actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease also enhances the chances of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

A personal history of skin cancer- In case you have developed any kind of skin cancer in the past, the chances of having squamous cell carcinoma of the skin again increases significantly.

Less stronger immune system- People who don’t have a stronger immune systems are on higher risk of skin cancer as compared to the ones with strong immune system. This category includes people who have leukemia or lymphoma and those who are on medications that lower their immune system. People who have undergone organ transplants are at a higher risk of having squamous cell cancer in the future.

Rare genetic disorder- People with xeroderma pigmentosum which later results in developing sensitivity to the rays of Sun also have a greater chance of developing skin cancer.

Age over 50- The risk of developing Squamous cell cancer also increases with the age which is one of the main reasons for higher cases of the cancer among people above the age of 50. The longer you live, the more sun exposure and sun damage will also accumulate, but this is not only the reason which can give relaxation to younger people as they are also exposed to Sun and can result in the growth of Squamous Cell Cancer.

Gender- Men have higher complaints of Squamous cell carcinomas as compared to women which is due to the fact that men spend more time under the Sun as compared to men.

Complications faced by the patient

This kind of skin cancer if not treated on time, can result in badly affecting the tissues and will later spread to the lymph nodes or other organs as well, which though is rare but if happen can result in major complications. The risk of aggressively spreading cancer on the skin will increase the chances and complications as well.

The risk of the cancer will increase in case:

  • If it is significantly larger in size
  • It is spared near the lips
  • It affect the person with a lesser stronger immune system, which includes the patients who take anti dosages post after an after an organ transplant or someone who has chronic leukemia


Now the most important question arises is how we can prevent the growth of squamous cell carcinomas on the skin so that we can lead a healthy life. Some of the ways through which we can protect ourselves from getting affected by such kind of cancer include:

  • You need to avoid getting under the Sun especially when it is standing just above you, in the middle of the day. For most of the people, the sun’s rays are the strongest during the day time, especially between about 10 – 3 and this is the time when you should try and avoid going out. You can schedule your outdoor activities for other times of the day, even during winter or when the sky is cloudy.
  • We all are advised to wear sunscreen throughput the year, while going out during the day time. You can apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, while going out, no if its cloudy days as well, you can still apply the lotion as a preventive step. Apply sunscreen on your skin and other body parts which are exposed under the Sun, and you need to apply it again every two hours in case you are swimming or sweating.
  • Besides applying the sun screen lotion, wearing protective clothing is also important as it will protect your skin from getting affected by harmful ultra violet rays. Wear tightly woven clothing which can cover your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, that can offer an added protection during your stay under the Sun.
  • Many companies also design protective clothing, you can consult your dermatologist who will guide you about an appropriate brand. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses while going out during the day time.
  • Don’t use tanning beds as they emit UV rays which in turn increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • You need to pay a regular visit to your doctor and get your skin checked regularly; the doctor will have a look at your skin and will see the changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps etc. With the help of mirrors, the doctors will check your face, neck, ears and scalp which are the areas that can get affected by the damage at the earliest.
  • You need to examine your chest and trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Also have a look at the front and back of your legs and your feet which includes soles and the spaces between your toes. All these areas have higher chances of developing Squamous cell cancer.

What is the treatment for very small skin cancers?

If your skin cancer is very small, chances are that it is lower risk of spreading, and even less invasive treatments would work for you.

  • Curettage and electrodessication- This treatment includes removing the surface of the infected area using a scraping instrument which is known as curet. After that, the process includes searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle. This kind of treatment is the most preferred process for small type of squamous cell cancers which is affecting the skin of the patient.

  • Laser therapy- Under this method, an intense beam of light vaporizes growths and will result in lower damage to surrounding tissue and with a reduced risk of bleeding, swelling and scarring. This treatment is one of the best ways to get cure.
  • Freezing- Under this treatment, the cancer cells are freeze using liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery) is done and it is the only option for curing superficial skin lesions. Freezing is completed using a scraping instrument which is known as curet and it removes the surface of the skin cancer.
  • Photodynamic therapy- This therapy uses photosensitizing drugs and rays of light to cure the cancers. Under this type, a liquid drug which makes the cancer cells sensitive to light is applied to the skin and later a light which destroys the skin cancer cells is shined on the area.


Besides consulting your doctor, there are many tests and procedures which will help in diagnosing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin which includes:

  • Physical exam- Through physical exam, your doctor will ask questions about your health history and will examine your skin accordingly; the doctor will look for the signs of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and post examining you, the doctor will get the dosage accordingly.
  • Removing a sample of tissue for testing- To confirm a squamous cell carcinoma of the skin diagnosis, the doctor will use a tool to cut away some or the entire suspicious skin lesion (biopsy). The kind of skin biopsy you undergo depends on the situation you are facing, and the tissue taken by your body will be send to a laboratory for the examination.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is caused by DNA damage which in turn results in the abnormal changes in the squamous cells in the outermost layer of skin. By understanding the causes of the damage and the factors which can increase the risk of developing SCC will result in detecting the disease at the earliest. So you are advised to consult your doctor at the earliest.


  1. https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/71/8_Supplement/275
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441939/
  3. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.prs.0000138243.45735.8a
  4. https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(17)32325-3/fulltext

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