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  • Writer's pictureThalia Polk

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Welcome to part four of my skin cancer series. Today I am discussing the second most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

There are several different types of skin cancer. Each of them fits into one of two categories:

  • Melanoma and non-melanoma.

Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, and sebaceous gland carcinoma.

A Few Stats & Facts:

Here are a few facts and statistics that I have gathered from the Skin Cancer Foundation at and the American Academy of Dermatology Association at Please visit their sites for more!

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer.

  • The latest figures suggest that more than 15,000 people die of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in the U.S. each year.

  • Organ transplant patients are approximately 100 times more likely than the general public to develop squamous cell carcinoma.

  • SCC often develops from pre-cancerous growths on the skin known as actinic keratosis (AK).

  • SCC can only occur where squamous cells are present.

  • SCC is most common in people who have fair skin.

  • SCC in darker-skinned people tends to develop in areas that get little to no sun exposure: underneath the nails on the fingers and toes, inside the mouth, genitals, and anus.

    • SCC in/on the mouth, anus and genitals is believed to be associated with injury or Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection.

What are squamous cells?

  • Flat cells that line organs in our body such as the thyroid, lungs, throat, and skin.

  • Their job is to protect the tissue that lies beneath them.

What Causes SCC?

  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation and other harmful agents causes damage to DNA, which triggers abnormal changes in the squamous cells.

What Does SCC Look Like?

  • A round sore or growth with raised borders

  • A sore that does not heal, or heals and comes back

  • Rough, reddish, scaly patch of skin

  • A brown spot that looks like an age spot

  • A firm, dome-shaped growth

  • A sore developing in an old scar

  • Wart-like growth

  • A tiny rhinoceros shaped horn growing from the skin

*Please note: These photos serve as a general reference for what squamous cell carcinoma may look like. These photos are not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool.

SCC Risk Factors:

  • Organ transplant recipients

  • Fair skin that was/is seldom protected from the sun

  • Use of indoor tanning beds

  • A history of one or more actinic keratosis (AK) growths on the skin

  • HPV infection

  • Previous skin cancer

  • Exposure to arsenic

  • UV damaged skin

  • Previous sunburns

SCC Prevention:

  • Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent.

  • Wear your sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even on cloudy days!

    • When outdoors, make sure you apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and reapply it every two hours.

  • Seek shade when outside.

  • Wear protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses.

  • Take extra caution near sand, snow, and water.

  • Avoid tanning beds and sunbathing.

  • Install a protective window film to windows in your car and home.

    • Don’t forget the front windshield of your car!

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Monthly: examine yourself from head to toe once a month.

    • See your doctor if you find anything that does not seem right.

  • Annually: see a dermatologist for a skin exam and/or mole mapping.

Coming Up...

This is part four of a multi-part series. In my next post, I will be discussing melanoma.

Did you miss my first three articles in this series? Check them out here:


I would love to help you achieve your skin goals!

Visit my website to view my entire menu of services. Then, email me at, or DM me via Instagram or Facebook. I’ll get you set up with a comprehensive consultation and skin analysis, and we'll sail off on your skin transformation journey together!

Do you have questions about anything in this post? Leave a comment right here in this post or email me at I’d love to hear from you!




References, graphics and photos: Skin Cancer Foundation; American Academy of Dermatology Association;

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