Each year in the United States, more than a million people learn they have squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). As the second most common form of skin cancer, SCC is slowly becoming more common: Over the past few decades, SCC diagnoses have increased 200%. Although SCC does represent a real health danger, it’s highly curable when spotted early, before it’s had a chance to spread. The team at District Dermatology in McLean, Virginia specialize in diagnosing and treating all types of skin cancer, including SCC. Call or book your appointment online today.
Your skin consists of several distinct layers, each of which contains different types of skin cells. Squamous cells make up most of your skin’s outermost layer, or epidermis.
When abnormal cells appear within that layer and begin to grow uncontrollably, they develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Along with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), SCC is sometimes called a non-melanoma type of skin cancer.
Like all forms of skin cancer, SCC is mainly caused by cumulative, lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun; indoor tanning bed use is another common source of exposure.
SCC can appear on any part of your body, but it’s most likely to occur on areas of skin that are exposed often or always, such as the face, neck, ears, bald scalp, backs of the hands, and lower legs.
SCC may appear in the form of a red, scaly patch, an open sore, a wart, or an elevated growth with a depressed middle. In some cases, it may bleed or form crusts.
SCC can start out as a precancerous growth called actinic keratosis (AK). AKs, which typically appear on the scalp or face, appear as red or pink patches that may be rough, scaly, or dry. Roughly 60% of SCCs develop from an AK.
Most SCCs are found during routine skin exams. As with other types of skin cancer, the only way to conclusively diagnose an SCC is with a skin biopsy, which involves the removal of some or all of the suspicious growth for examination under a microscope.
To provide patients with the highest possible cure rate, the team at District Dermatology uses Mohs surgery, the most advanced skin cancer excision technique, to treat SCC.
This highly successful, specialized surgery involves excising the visible parts of an SCC and then removing successive layers of skin that may contain cancer cells. As each layer is lifted away, it’s examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. Successive layers are removed until there are no longer any cancer cells left in the area.
Mohs surgery can provide cure rates as high as 99% while leaving the least noticeable scar possible.
Protecting yourself from the sun and avoiding tanning beds are the two best ways to minimize your risk of any type of skin cancer, including SCC.
You should apply sunscreen on exposed areas of skin whenever you plan to be outside, even on cool or cloudy days. If you can’t get in the habit of using sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the skin on your face and neck. You should also wear lightweight clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
To learn more about how to reduce your chances of developing SCC and other types of skin cancer, call or book your appointment online today.