What is Squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell (or ‘Spinocellular’) carcinoma is when the large, plate-like cells of your outer skin can turn cancerous.


This is a cancer of cells at the outermost layer of the skin. It’s the second most common skin cancer in northern Europe, after basal cell carcinoma – comprising about 20%. 

Squamous cell carcinoma is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma, however, so early treatment is advisable. Untreated, it can eventually cause problems that are serious.

To stay safe from squamous cell carcinoma, be sensible about the sun – wear hats, wear sunblock, and never use sunbeds. And know your skin. Your doctor will want to know about anything you see changing, or not healing, or just looking odd. 


Watch for a firm, red nodule, or a flat sore with a scaly crust. It’s most likely to develop where there is sun damage, but it can appear anywhere – even inside your mouth or under your clothes. 


Treatment depends on the lesion type, size, location and depth of penetration, and also the patient’s age and general health. Mohs micrographic surgery is the gold standard, but simple curettage or even cryotherapy can be appropriate in superficial cases. Treatment is almost always done on an outpatient basis in a doctor’s office or at a clinic. Local anesthetic is used, and discomfort is usually minimal. 


Early detection is important with squamous cell carcinoma. But most people treated promptly are cured.

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