Recurrence, Prevention and Early Detection

Anyone who has had one squamous cell carcinoma has an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same skin area or nearby. That is usually because the skin has already suffered irreversible sun damage. Such recurrences typically occur within the first two years after surgery. A squamous cell carcinoma can recur even when it has been carefully removed the first time.

Thus, it is crucial to pay particular attention to any previously treated site, and any changes noted should be shown immediately to a physician. SCCs on the nose, ears and lips are especially prone to recurrence. Even if no suspicious signs are noticed, regularly scheduled follow-up visits, including total-body skin exams, are an essential part of posttreatment care. Should the cancer return, the physician may recommend a different type of treatment the next time. Certain methods, such as Mohs micrographic surgery, can be highly effective for preventing and treating recurrences.

While squamous cell carcinomas and other skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early, it is best to prevent them in the first place. Practice as many of these safety habits as you can as part of your daily health care routine, all year round and at every age:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Don’t get sunburned.
  • Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
Warning Signs
and Images
Causes and
Risk Factors


Medical Reviewers:
Brett M. Coldiron, MD
Leonard H. Goldberg, MD
Elizabeth K. Hale, MD
Mark Lebwohl, MD

Photographs Courtesy of: 
William A. Crutcher, MD 
Alfred W. Kopf, MD 
Mark Lebwohl, MD 
Ashfaq Marghoob, MD 
Leonard J. Swinyer, MD