Keeping You Safe at Certified Dermatology

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that usually begin as pink scaly patches, open sores, or raised bumps with a central crater. Like basal cell carcinoma, they are usually slow growing. Certain squamous cell skin cancers, however, can develop on the skin quickly and grow rapidly. When this happens, they can sometimes be tender or inflamed and cause some pain in the area of the skin where they are located.

Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer is usually not fatal. A delay in treatment, however, can sometimes cause this type of cancer to metastasize to other parts of the body. If this happens, the results can be potentially fatal, depending on the extent of the spread. Squamous cell carcinoma can grow large over time and be quite disfiguring, so early detection and intervention are key to a satisfactory outcome. To learn more about how we can help you with this issue, browse our locations page and reach out to the Certified Dermatology location that’s most convenient for you.

Common Risk Factors

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma are similar to that of basal cell carcinoma and include sun exposure, sunburns, fair skin, and genetics. In addition to those risk factors, a history of prior radiation therapy puts you at a greater risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Patients who are undergoing immuno-suppression from chronic illness, infections such as HIV, or organ transplant patients on anti-rejection drugs are also at an increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

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Protecting Yourself from Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The best protection against squamous cell carcinoma is education! Wearing sunscreen, protecting your children, avoiding indoor tanning, and being as careful as we can when playing or working outdoors is our best defense against developing this form of skin cancer.

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. 
  • Re-apply sunscreen every 60 to 90 minutes while in the sun.
  • Avoid peak hours of the sun between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Do not let yourself burn!
  • Avoid indoor tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin once a month for new or changing spots.
  • Have a yearly skin examination to ensure your skin is in good health.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is completely curable with appropriate treatment and early intervention. The best treatment often depends on the size and location of the skin cancer. There are many acceptable options for treating squamous cell carcinoma.

Excisional Surgery

Most squamous cell carcinomas are best treated with complete surgical excision. The entire skin cancer, plus a small margin of healthy tissue, is removed, and the surgical defect is stitched closed. This is typically a relatively quick and easy procedure that can be performed right in the comfort of our office location.  

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Mohs surgery is a technique used for large skin cancers or lesions in tissue-sensitive areas like the scalp, face, ears, nose, hands, shins, feet, or toes. The cancer is removed in layers and microscopically examined in the office while you wait. This ensures that all cancer has been completely removed. Once all the cancer is eliminated, the area can then be stitched closed.

Electrodesiccation and Curettage

This is an acceptable form of treatment for superficial squamous cell skin cancers and smaller lesions on preferred parts of the body, though it is not an effective treatment for invasive squamous cell skin cancers. A local numbing agent will be injected into the treatment area before the skin cancer is then burned with an electric needle and scraped away. The site typically heals well, and cure rates are acceptable.


Cryotherapy, better known as freezing, is ideal for superficial and smaller skin cancers, but not deeper or invasive types. The treatment area will be frozen with liquid nitrogen, which results in a destructive blister on the skin, causing the skin cancer cells to fall off as it heals. When performed properly, cryotherapy comes with delightfully high cure rates. We’ll be happy to discuss this option with you during your initial appointment.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation can often be ideal for lesions that are hard to treat surgically or which are on patients that are not good surgical candidates. This procedure would be performed at an appropriate radiation facility, with treatments spread out over a four- to six-week period, with treatments up to five days a week. Cure rates are acceptable when the treatment is followed exactly as it is recommended by the Radiation Oncologist.

Topical Therapy

Only certain superficial types of squamous cell carcinoma may be appropriately treated with prescribed topical creams, but topical therapy might not be appropriate for more involved lesions. One cream, known as 5-fluorouracil, works as topical chemotherapy, while imiquimod stimulates your immune system to more effectively fight the cancer.

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