SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. ey can become dis guring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow. More than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and (depending on different estimates) as many as 8,800 people die from the disease. Incidence of the disease has increased up to 200 percent in the past three decades in the U.S.
SCC is mainly caused by cumulative ultraviolet (UV) exposure over the course of a lifetime; intense exposure in the summer months, as well as the UV produced by tanning beds, all add to the damage that can lead to SCC. Having a fair complexion also puts you at risk of SCC.
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. Often the skin in these areas reveals telltale signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, “age spots,” loss of elasticity, and broken blood vessels. Often SCC is mistaken for rash.
A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds.
Squamous cell carcinomas detected at an early stage and removed promptly are almost always curable and cause minimal damage. However, left untreated, they eventually penetrate the underlying tissues and can become disfiguring. A small percentage even metastasize to local lymph nodes, distant tissues, and organs and can become fatal. erefore, any suspicious growth should be reported to a dermatologist without delay.
Anyone who has had precancerous spots called actinic keratosis (AKs) or one squamous cell tumor has an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same skin area or nearby. That is usually because the skin has already suffered irreversible sun damage. Such recurrences typically occur within the first two years after surgery. A squamous cell carcinoma can recur even when it has been carefully removed the rst time. at is why you need to be under close lifelong surveillance of your dermatologist.
To avoid or prevent SCC, make these sun safety habits part of your daily health care routine:
• 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.
• Wear a hat that covers your ears.
• Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30-50 every day.
• Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
• Report any rash that does not go away in a month or two to your dermatologist.
• Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
• Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
• See your dermatologist at least once a year for a routine full skin check exam.