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What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, and it has the ability to spread quickly within the body. It develops when squamous cells (a type of cell found in the top layer of the skin) begin acting abnormally due to DNA damage from UV exposure or tanning beds. This type of cancer tends to develop in areas that are the most exposed to sunlight, such as the head, scalp, face, arms, and legs. 

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How Dangerous is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

The good news is that nearly all squamous cell carcinomas, when discovered and treated early, are not dangerous. It’s when the condition is left untreated that it can advance and become an issue. If allowed to grow, squamous cell carcinomas can reach into deeper layers of the skin, spread, cause disfigurement, and may even become fatal. This is why early detection and treatment are so important. 

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Who is at Risk for Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

  • Males & females
  • Those over the age of 50
  • Those with long-term sun exposure or sun damage
  • Those with a pale/fair complexion, light hair, and light eyes
  • Those with a weakened immune system after illness or certain medications
  • Individuals with a history of skin cancer 
  • Those with sun-sensitive conditions 
  • Individuals with chronic infections and skin inflammation
  • Individuals who have received an organ transplant
  • Individuals on immunosuppressive medications
  • Those who have had skin pre-cancers 
  • Individuals with a history of HPV

How to Identify Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The characteristics of squamous cell carcinomas differ widely from person to person. Because of this, the only way to be sure if your lesion is cancerous is to visit a dermatologist. 

Squamous cell carcinomas may bleed, crust over, or itch. They may present as: 

  • Scaly red patches
  • Open sores
  • Rough, thick, wart-like skin 
  • Raised growths with a central depression 
  • Flat, scaly, red skin that is approximately one inch 
  • A pale, dry, cracked lesion on the lip
  • A lesion that won’t heal or recurs

Best Practices for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

If you’re mindful of early detection of squamous cell carcinoma, it can nearly always be treated successfully. The following are best practices:

  • Give yourself a skin check every month, watching for lesions that change, become larger, don’t heal, or bleed
  • Regularly visit a dermatologist for a professional skin check 
  • Always wear the correct sunscreen for your specific skin and be aggressive with re-application
  • Wear protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses when outdoors
  • Don’t use tanning beds or tanning lamps
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Treatment Options 

If you develop squamous cell carcinoma, there are several treatment options. The most common include:

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Greco Dermatology: Your Diagnosis Center in Sarasota

Everyone, regardless of their skin type, are at risk for developing skin cancer — and those with a history of skin cancer are at risk for developing more. Greco Dermatology is a premier skin cancer and lesion clinic in Sarasota founded by double board-certified dermatologist Joseph F. Greco, M.D. Our practice focuses on skin cancer-based services, providing all phases of treatment including the skin exam, skin biopsy, and treatment. Dr. Greco has been in the realm of skin cancer for 15 years, serving as Director of UCLA Santa Monica Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery for 12 years. If you want a trusted and experienced dermatologist in Sarasota to provide comprehensive care in the surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment of skin cancer and related lesions and growths, we welcome you to contact our office today for a consultation. We will take excellent care of you.

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