Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

En Español

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common form of skin cancer, is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising from the squamous cells in the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. It is sometimes called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) to differentiate it from very different kinds of SCCs elsewhere in the body. Cutaneous is the scientific word for “related to or affecting the skin.”

SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, warts or elevated growths with a central depression; they may crust or bleed. They can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow. More than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., which translates to about 115 cases diagnosed every hour. Incidence has increased up to 200 percent in the past three decades in the U.S., and more than 15,000 Americans die each year from the disease.

Cumulative, long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun over your lifetime causes most SCCs. Daily year-round sun exposure, intense exposure in the summer months or on sunny vacations and the UV produced by indoor tanning devices all add to the damage that can lead to SCC. Experts believe that indoor tanning is contributing to an increase in cases among young women, who tend to use tanning beds more than others do.

SCCs may occur on all areas of the body, including the mucous membranes and genitals, but are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs. The skin in these areas often reveals telltale signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, “age spots,” loss of elasticity and broken blood vessels.

Warning Signs
and Images
Causes and
Risk Factors

Treatment
Options
Prevention Guidelines

Featured Story

How Serious Is a Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Can it spread? How is one treated? An expert explains what you need to know about the second most common form of skin cancer.

Read more

Share Your Story

Want to spread the word about skin cancer awareness? Complete our Share Your Story form. Your story may end up on our website.

> Fill Out Form