Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma diagram Squamous Cell Carcinoma diagram

Squamous cell carcinoma of the Skin (SCC) is a form of skin cancer involving an abnormal growth of squamous cells in the epidermis which is the upper layer of the skin. It is the second most common type of skin cancer in New Zealand.

What Causes SCC?

The most common cause of this cancer is radiation from the sun from it’s UV light. The radiation from sunbeds can also cause this cancer. Chronically inflamed skin such as ulcers, burns and long standing wounds, also predispose to SCC formation.

For this reason SCC usually grows on areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight such as the face and scalp, chest, hands and forearms. However it can occur anywhere in the body including on areas never exposed to the sun such as inside the mouth.

Who is most at Risk?

People with fair skin who live in an area of strong UV light from the sun are most at risk if they do not take measures to protect their skin. Those who do not have a strong immune system e.g. patients with solid organ transplants or those taking medicine to suppress their immune system, are not only at higher risk of developing SCC but their tumours tend to grow and spread faster.

What does SCC look like?

At it’s earliest form SCC and be confined to the upper layer of the skin only (the epidermis). At this stage it is termed SCC in-situ. It can be treated with liquid nitrogen (freezing treatment), or curettage and cautery (freezing the area with anaesthetic then scraping the abnormal epidermis away).

Once the SCC has invaded the dermis, it must be excised and sent to the pathologists to ensure it has been completely removed. This will involve local anaesthetic and stitches. For larger tumours (larger than 2cm across) or those with poorly defined borders or on a high risk site, Mohs Micrographic surgery is the best method of removing these.

Dr Ferguson will discuss the treatment options depending on your type of tumour and your personal circumstances. Contact us for more information or to make an appointment.