Squamous-cell carcinoma or squamous cell cancer.
Are you wondering about squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)? SCC is a form of skin cancer that affects the flat, thin cells in your skin known as squamous cells. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly found in areas exposed to sunlight and other ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as the face, ears, neck and scalp. SCC can be severe if left untreated, but it’s highly treatable when caught early.

Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about squamous cell carcinoma—from causes, risk factors and symptoms to treatment options and prevention tips. 

History and Definition

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that originates from the squamous cells, which are the flat, scale-like cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. It is a common form of skin cancer and can occur in any area of the body, but it is most commonly found in sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears, neck, and arms.

The earliest documented description of SCC is attributed to Dr. James Bowen in 1912, who described the condition as a carcinoma in situ, meaning that it was confined to the top layer of the skin and had not yet spread to other tissues. Bowen’s work laid the foundation for further research and understanding of SCC and its progression.


The following are common symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Persistent, rough, scaly patch on the skin: This is the most common symptom of SCC, and it may appear as a red, raised area that is rough to the touch.


  • Open sore or ulcer: SCC can cause an open sore that does not heal or an ulcer that bleeds easily.


  • Growth or lesion: SCC can appear as a growth or lesion that is different in color or texture than the surrounding skin.


  • Crusting, scaling, or bleeding: SCC can cause the skin to become crusty, scaly, or to bleed easily.


  • Pain: Some people with SCC may experience pain or tenderness in the affected area.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or fungal infections. If you have any concerns about a skin growth or lesion, it is important to see a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon for an accurate diagnosis.


The exact cause of SCC is not known, but several risk factors have been associated with its development, including:

  • Sun exposure: Excessive sun exposure is the most significant risk factor for the development of SCC. UV radiation from the sun damages DNA in the skin cells, leading to mutations that can cause the cells to grow abnormally.


  • Fair skin: People with fair skin are at a higher risk of developing SCC because they have less melanin, the pigment that provides some protection against the harmful effects of the sun.


  • Age: SCC is more common in older adults, but it can occur at any age.


  • History of skin cancer: Individuals with a history of skin cancer, especially SCC, are at a higher risk of developing the condition again.


  • Immunosuppression: People with weakened immune systems, such as transplant recipients or individuals with autoimmune diseases, are at a higher risk of developing SCC.


  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic or coal tar, can increase the risk of SCC.

It is important to take steps to reduce your risk of developing SCC, such as wearing protective clothing and using sunscreens when in the sun, and see a dermatologist or plastic surgeon if you notice any changes in your skin, such as new growths or sores that do not heal. Early detection and treatment are key to a good outcome for SCC.


The diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) usually begins with a visual examination of the affected area by a doctor, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon. SCC is a type of skin cancer that typically appears as a rough, scaly patch or bump on the skin that may be crusty, bleeding, or painful.

To confirm the diagnosis of SCC, the doctor may perform a biopsy, which involves removing a small sample of the affected tissue for laboratory analysis. The biopsy can help to determine the exact type of growth and to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.

In addition to a visual examination and biopsy, the doctor may also perform a physical examination to check for any other suspicious growths or moles on the skin. They may also order additional tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.


Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) depends on the size, location, and spread of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. Some common treatment options for SCC include:


  • Cryotherapy: This involves freezing the affected area with liquid nitrogen.


  • Topical medications: Some topical medications, such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), may be used to treat small, early-stage SCCs.


  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): This involves using a light-sensitive drug and a special light source to destroy the cancer cells.


  • Excisional surgery: This involves removing the affected tissue and some surrounding healthy tissue to ensure that all of the cancer cells have been removed.


  • Mohs micrographic surgery: This is a specialized form of excisional surgery that removes the cancerous tissue layer by layer, with each layer being examined under a microscope until no cancer cells remain.


  • Curettage and electrodesiccation: This involves scraping away the cancerous tissue with a curette and then destroying any remaining cancer cells with an electric current.

Regardless of the treatment option chosen, the affected area may be sore and swollen for a few days after the procedure. The doctor may prescribe pain medication to help manage any discomfort. The area may also be covered with a bandage to protect it from injury.

In the case of surgical treatments, the doctor may also recommend follow-up appointments to monitor for any changes or recurrence of the cancer. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be recommended to help prevent the cancer from coming back.

It is important to keep the affected area clean and dry and to follow any aftercare instructions provided by the doctor to minimize the risk of infection and promote healing. In some cases, there may be some scarring after the procedure, but this is typically minimal and can be hidden by the surrounding skin.

Risk Factors

The following are some of the risk factors associated with squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Sun exposure: Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a major risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Fair skin: People with lighter skin, hair, and eye color have a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Sunburns: A history of severe sunburns, especially in childhood, increases the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Immune suppression: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, are at increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Age: The risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma increases with age.


  • Family history: A family history of skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma, increases the risk of developing the condition.


  • Personal history of skin cancer: People who have had skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, are at increased risk of developing it again.


  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Certain chemicals, such as arsenic and petroleum products, can increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

It’s essential to keep in mind that having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that a person will develop squamous cell carcinoma, and conversely, some people with squamous cell carcinoma may not have any of these risk factors.


Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that can cause a variety of complications if not treated appropriately. Some of the most common complications of SCC include:

  • Spread to other parts of the body: If left untreated, SCC can spread to nearby lymph nodes and eventually to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bones, and liver.


  • Recurrence: SCC can recur after treatment, especially if the cancer was not completely removed or if it returns to the same area.


  • Disfigurement: SCC can cause significant disfigurement if it is not treated early and appropriately, particularly if it affects the face or other visible areas of the body.


  • Pain: SCC can cause pain, especially if it is located in an area that is frequently used or if it is large and puts pressure on nearby structures.


  • Impaired function: SCC can impair the function of the affected body part if it is not treated early and appropriately. For example, if SCC affects the nose, it can cause difficulty breathing.


  • Psychological distress: SCC can cause significant psychological distress for the patient, especially if it affects the appearance or function of the body.

It’s important to note that the severity and likelihood of these complications can vary greatly depending on the location, size, and stage of the SCC, as well as the patient’s overall health and the effectiveness of their treatment. That’s why it’s crucial to seek prompt medical attention if you notice any changes in your skin or any new skin growths.

When to See a Doctor

If you have any signs or symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma, such as a persistent skin lesion or bump that does not heal, or a sore that bleeds easily, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma can greatly increase your chances of a successful outcome.

Your doctor will be able to perform a physical examination and order any necessary tests, such as a biopsy, to diagnose the condition. They can then recommend the best course of treatment, which may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the extent and location of cancer.

It is important to keep in mind that squamous cell carcinoma can be serious if not treated promptly, so do not delay seeking medical attention if you have any concerns.

Step-by-Step Guide to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Here is a step-by-step guide to the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma:


During your first appointment, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation of your skin and medical history. They will also examine the SCC to determine the size, depth, and location of the lesion.

Your doctor may perform a biopsy of the SCC to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the lesion for laboratory examination.

Treatment Options

Based on the examination and biopsy results, your doctor will discuss the various treatment options available for SCC removal. These may include surgical excision, Mohs surgery, radiation therapy, or topical medications.

Your doctor will help you choose the best treatment option based on factors such as the size and location of the SCC, your age, medical history, and personal preferences.


If you have decided to go ahead with a procedure, your doctor will give you pre-operative instructions, including information on fasting, avoiding certain medications, and avoiding sun exposure.


The procedure for SCC removal will vary based on the treatment option selected. For example, surgical excision involves cutting out the lesion, while Mohs surgery involves removing thin layers of the lesion until the cancerous cells are completely removed. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells, and topical medications may be used to slow the growth of the SCC.

Post-Operative Care

After the procedure, your doctor will provide you with post-operative instructions, including information on wound care, avoiding sun exposure, and avoiding certain activities that could disrupt the healing process.

You will typically need to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor to assess the results of the treatment and to determine if any further treatment is necessary.

The exact process may vary depending on the individual case and the doctor’s specific recommendations. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and to attend all scheduled appointments to ensure the best possible outcome. Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that requires prompt and appropriate treatment, so it’s important to take it seriously and follow your doctor’s advice.


Squamous cell carcinoma is a serious and potentially life-threatening form of skin cancer that needs to be treated as soon as possible. With early detection, treatment can often be successful. However, if it goes untreated, cancer may spread to other areas of the body and cause more severe health problems.

People need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma so they can seek medical care quickly if needed. Regular checkups with your doctor are also recommended to spot any potential changes in your skin or other areas that could indicate something more serious than a simple sore or rash.

By being proactive about their health, individuals can help reduce their risk of developing this type of cancer and maintain better overall health and wellness. 


Dr. Colin Hong is your ideal choice if you’re looking for a skilled and highly experienced plastic surgeon in the Toronto area. With over 35 years of experience in Cosmetic, Plastic and Reconstructive surgeries, he offers one of the most affordable costs around North York, Markham and Toronto. 

Don’t wait – contact us today to book your consultation with Dr. Hong! Please provide us with your full name, email address and phone number upon your request so that we can get back to you promptly. Additionally, please obtain a referral from your family doctor if you wish to be seen for squamous cell carcinoma. 

Call us at (416) 222-6986 or email info@drcolinhong.com to make an appointment with Dr. Hong today!

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