Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

What is Squamous Cell Skin Cancer?

Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer seen in New Zealand. Squamous Cell Skin Cancer occurs predominantly on sun exposed areas, especially the face. Squamous Cell Skin Cancer is a result of ultraviolet damage to the squamous cells of the skin.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer is an invasive form of skin cancer and in rare cases can metastasise (spread to other sites in the body). The majority of the cases are diagnosed at an early stage and are easily treated.

Squamous cell skin cancer occurs particularly in elderly people who have had a lot of sun. The cumulative ultraviolet exposure, particularly in people with fair skin types, causes damage to the DNA, which in turn can cause squamous cell skin cancer. People with long term recreational or work exposure to ultraviolet light are particularly at risk.

On rare occasions it can also occur with inherited syndromes and conditions that suppress the immune system. It is particularly a problem in patients who have had organ transplants or are on immune suppressing drugs.

Typically squamous cell carcinoma presents as an enlarging or changing area on the skin. Often this has a scaly raised top and typically can ulcerate or bleed. These occur in sun exposed areas and grow rapidly over a period of months, causing pain. High risk areas include ears, lips, and central face.

Any growing lump on the skin, particularly if it is painful or ulcerating, needs to be checked to exclude cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. If there is any doubt, the area should be biopsied or removed to be checked.

At Wellington Dermatology we are specialised in diagnosing and removing squamous cell skin cancers, so if you are worried please get in touch as soon as possible.