Squamous Cell Carcinoma

These are the second most common skin cancer, after Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC’s). As their name implies, they arise from the Squamous layer of the skin, which is quite near the surface. Squamous Cell Carcinoma’s (SCC’s) are more serious than BCC’s as they more easily invade the underlying tissues and may spread to lymph glands or distant organs.

SCC’s occur most commonly on the head and neck, though arms and legs are quite often affected. These cancers are mostly caused by ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) from the sun. They can also arise as a result of exposure to the much more carcinogenic UVC from welding. Without proper protective gear, 3 minutes of welding is thought to be equivalent to 3 hours of sun baking.
Aside from ultraviolet radiation, other factors have been linked with SCC’s, such as tar, lubricants, arsenic-based preservatives and creosote (used in pest control).

SCC’s present as a raised, scaly lump that may be sore. The appearance on arms and legs is sometimes that of a mini-volcano, a cone with a slight depression in the centre. Sometimes there is a hard keratin core which can be picked off but then grows back. They sometimes grow quite rapidly in size over a few days. Early forms may be flat and look a little like eczema.

Aktinic keratosis ( a sunspot) is the pre-malignant form of Squamous Cell Carcinomas. If untreated, a significant proportion of these will transform into skin cancers. People with large numbers of sunspots are at a much higher risk.

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