Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common kind of skin cancer, often surfaces as a scaly patch of skin with a red base. Usually, it appears in sun-exposed areas of the head, neck, arms and hands, though it can occur in areas not exposed to the sun. Sometimes, the area bleeds or appears suddenly and grows rapidly. The only way to diagnose any type of skin cancer is with a biopsy, during which part of the growth or the entire growth is examined.


Frequent or intense exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds causes most squamous cell carcinomas.  

Other Risk Factors

  • Age 40 or older.
  • Fair complexion.
  • Light-colored eyes.
  • Blond or red hair.
  • Smoking.
  • History of thermal burn.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • History of blistering sunburns.

Note: Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get squamous cell carcinoma, and many people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.


  • A bump or lump that feels rough and may become dome-shaped and crusty as it grows.
  • A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal.
  • A flat, reddish, scaly patch that grows.


  • Limit your time in the sun and avoid the midday rays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  • Use a generous amount of water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats whenever possible.
  • Check your skin regularly for lumps, bumps or marks.
  • Schedule regular skin-cancer screenings with your dermatologist.

Treatment Options

  • Excision. Considered to be the most effective treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, this procedure involves numbing and surgically removing the growth during an office visit that lasts approximately 20 minutes.
  • Electrodesiccation and Curettage. This option consists of numbing the abnormal tissue and scraping it away with a special tool. The doctor may need to repeat the procedure, which typically takes only 5 minutes. A small white mark may remain.  
  • Intralesional and/or Topical Chemotherapy. Various chemotherapeutic drugs can be using either topically or injected into the skin cancer to destroy the cancerous cells.
  • Mohs micrographic surgery, which allows a doctor to see where the cancer stops. Dr. Amy Watson at Pensacola Dermatology does not provide this type of surgery but can refer her patients to a doctor who does.

Monthly skin-cancer self-examinations are important precautionary measures, but nothing can replace a complete skin exam by your doctor. The medical professionals at Pensacola Dermatology can diagnose any skin-related issues, including squamous cell carcinoma. Schedule an appointment with Pensacola Dermatology so we can address your individual needs.

Squamous cell carcinoma | American Academy of Dermatology. (2018). Aad.org. Retrieved 21 December 2018, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/squamous-cell-carcinoma

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