No one likes to think about cancer, especially skin cancer, because we’ve all spent those days in the sun. But knowing the warning signs will help us take action sooner. And the sooner we take action, the more likely we can live a long, healthy life after a carcinoma diagnosis.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) accounts for about 20% of skin cancers, making it the second most common form of skin cancer. It develops in the outermost layer of skin, which is known as the epidermis. Specifically, SCC (as opposed to basal cell carcinoma) starts in the cells on the top of the epidermis. These are the cells that continually shed as new ones form. The DNA of the squamous cells can be damaged by UV radiation from the sun or from tanning beds. The damaged cells begin to grow uncontrollably instead of dying off as they normally would. These uncontrolled cells start to form the skin growths that are called squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma treatment is easy and relatively painless, but it is critical to know the warning signs in order to keep the SCC from spreading and/or becoming severe.
First, look for unusual growths on the parts of your skin that are most exposed to the sun, such as your scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, hands, and forearms. However, don’t discount other parts of the body since squamous skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, including on the genitals or inside your mouth.
You should immediately consult your doctor if you find any of the following described growths on your skin. Check for tough, thickened, scaly, or wart-like skin. You might find a firm, pink lump, especially one with a rough or crusty surface. This lump might be tender or bleed easily. You also might find a spiky horn sticking up from the lump. Look for open sores that don’t completely heal with time or growths that are raised at the edges with a depression in the center. Be aware of any newly raised areas or sores on old scars. The areas where SCC is present might be itchy, bleed easily, or hurt.
We should all be concerned about SCC, but people with fair skin, light colored hair and eyes, or skin that is prone to sunburn or freckles are at higher risk for developing SCC. If you are an older male, a smoker, and/or have a history of skin cancer, you have an increased risk for getting SCC. Take special care if you spend a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds, if you have a compromised immune system, or if you have been diagnosed with Bowen’s disease.
Remember that most SCC is successfully treated and/or cured. If you find any warning signs or have higher risk factors, don’t delay in contacting Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. We can work together to keep your skin safe and healthy.