What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

One of the most common forms of skin cancer, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma can appear on healthy skin or on skin that has been inflamed or injured. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 20 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers. The main risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Light-colored skin, green or blue eyes, or red or blonde hair
  • A high number of serious sunburns early in life
  • Daily sun exposure for long periods of time

Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer typically appears on the face, neck, ears, arm, or hands. The primary symptoms are a bump that grows and may have a scaly surface and patches of red. Squamous cell cancer may also appear as a sore that does not heal, or alterations to an existing skin lesion (such as a mole or wart).

Treatments for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

A doctor will first perform a skin biopsy to confirm the presence of squamous cell carcinoma. Over 95 percent of cases can be effectively treated but cutting away the cancerous tissue. Specialized surgical techniques such as Mohs micrographic surgery can be used to ensure complete cancer removal while minimizing the loss of healthy tissue.  

Treatments for Advanced Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Various types of chemotherapy can be considered for the treatment of unresectable, distantly spread squamous cell carcinoma. While the relative benefits of each chemotherapy for this type of skin cancer are not clear, options include but are not limited to taxanes, platinum agents, and 5-fluorouracil. In addition, therapies that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) can be considered. Our understanding of the benefits of specific therapies is not fully clear because only a limited number of clinical trials have been performed. Mount Sinai is committed to identifying improved therapies and is conducting research and clinical trials.

Given the rarity of distantly metastatic or locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma, it is important to have this condition managed by an experienced, multidisciplinary team.

Contact Us

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center
The Mount Sinai Hospital
One Gustave L. Levy Place
Box 1128
New York, NY 10029

Tel: 212-824-8698

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