Manhattan Dermatology Specialists
  • MIDTOWN 56 W 45TH ST, STE 819 New York, NY 10036
  • UPPER EAST SIDE 983 PARK AVE, STE 1D1 New York, NY 10028
  • UNION SQUARE 55 W. 17TH ST STE 103 New York, NY 10011

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cells make up most of the upper layers of skin on your body, commonly called the epidermis. Carcinoma is the term used when those cells become malignant or cancerous. Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer.

Much like basal cell carcinoma, a squamous cell carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer. These two types of cancer are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancer. They rarely spread to other parts of your body and are relatively easy to treat, especially when they’re caught early. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas differ in that they get their start in the cells for which they’re named.

More Similarities and Differences

Squamous cell carcinoma does tend to spread more quickly than basal cell-related skin cancer. However, it is primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning booths. People who have had an organ transplant are among the highest risk groups for developing squamous cell carcinoma, with a 65 percent higher risk than those who have not had a transplant.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than a million new cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year, compared with closer to four million new basal cell carcinoma cases. Your NYC dermatologist can advise you about the risks, symptoms, and treatments for both kinds of skin cancer, as well as the risks you of developing the more serious and deadly melanoma.

Watch for Common Signs and Symptoms

Whenever you notice a new spot or lesion on your skin, you should bring it to the attention of your dermatologist in New York. Only a trained specialist can determine the exact kind of mark it is and whether it’s any cause for concern. Skin cancer lesions tend to change over time. A squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A scaly patch of red spots
  • Warty lesion
  • A rapidly growing lesion that’s elevated and has a depression in the center
  • A crusty, bleeding sore

Squamous cell carcinoma, also referred to as SCC, can be deadly if not treated sufficiently in time. It also can lead to significant disfigurement if the cancer is allowed to grow. It can appear inside your body, too, usually on the mucous membrane in your mouth or genitals, but more commonly, it’s found on those body parts that get the most sun exposure, such as your:

  • Scalp if you’re balding
  • Lower lip
  • The rim of your ears
  • Legs, arms, and hands
  • Neck

You usually notice other sun-damaged skin around the SCC in the form of age spots, wrinkles, broken blood vessels, changes in the pigment, and elasticity loss.

Risk Factors and Causes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

You’re more likely to develop SCC if you’ve had basal cell carcinoma, the more common form of skin cancer, in the past. You’re also in a higher risk category if you:

  • Have fair skin
  • Have green, gray, or blue eyes
  • Spend a lot of your leisure time in the sun
  • Have a job that keeps you outdoors, exposed to the sun
  • Inherited a condition called xeroderma pigmentosum that makes you highly sensitive to UV rays
  • Have a chronic ulcer
  • Are naturally dark-skinned and have been burned or had other skin conditions
  • Underwent chemotherapy
  • Take immune-suppressing drugs
  • Have been exposed to large doses of radiation
  • Have scars, burns, or skin ulcer
  • Have Bowen’s Disease, caused by exposure to certain chemicals, trauma, or arsenic — symptoms look very much like eczema or psoriasis.
  • HPV infection

All skin types can develop squamous cell carcinoma. A top dermatologist in New York sees this condition in men twice as often as in women, but it primarily appears in those over 50. More and more young people are getting SCC due to the increased popularity of indoor tanning booths.

Precancerous growths usually are precursors to full-blown squamous cell carcinoma. These growths are the types of indicators your NYC dermatologist finds during your normal examinations.

Treatment Options

Most of the time, when the SCC is caught early and is still small, squamous cell carcinoma can be excised in your Manhattan doctor’s office with little or no discomfort. Other procedures used to eliminate early signs of SCC include:

  • Mohs surgery. Your dermatologist is trained in this technique that allows her to scrape off the visible parts of the tumor and a little bit of surrounding skin and examine it immediately to determine if there are any cancer cells in the periphery or not. If there are, she may go back and remove a little more. This is done until all the cancer is removed. Mohs surgery is 94 to 99 percent effective and is considered the gold standard of treatment.
  • Cancer with surgically excised with a margin of normal skin.
  • The tumor is frozen and then eventually falls off within a couple of days
  • Radiation. This usually is reserved for larger, more aggressive tumors and requires repeated blasts of high-energy radiation directly on the tumor.
  • Medicated cream. You may be given a topical cream to put on the tumor daily until it dissolves.

You might experience some scarring or slight disfigurement from any of the treatments for SCC, but those are easily treated with cosmetic procedures that your dermatologist can explain to you. The best dermatologists offer to perform these procedures after you’ve healed.

While it’s rare, squamous cell carcinoma can spread into your lymph nodes and other parts of your body. It’s never recommended that you wait or postpone a check-up and treatment for any new, unusual, or changing marks on your skin.

Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board-certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist could determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Updated on Mar 7, 2023 by Dr. Susan Bard (Dermatologist), Manhattan Dermatology Specialists Locations: Manhattan Dermatology (Upper East Side) 983 Park Ave, Ste 1D1, NY 10028
(212) 427-8750
Manhattan Dermatology (Midtown) 56 W 45th St, Ste 819, NY 10036
(212) 889-2402
Manhattan Dermatology (Union Square) 55 W 17th St, Ste 103, NY 10011
(212) 378-9984
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice and self diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs you may be having. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan should only be made by your physician in order to exclude a serious condition.
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