Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis). SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, raised growths with a central depression. They sometimes crust or bleed. The areas affected are those frequently exposed to the sun, areas with most sun damage (wrinkling, changes in pigmentation, and loss of elasticity) such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, bald scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs. It may also occur on the mucous membranes and genitals.

Squamous cell cancer may occur in normal skin or in skin that has been injured or inflamed. Often it develops in a previously scarred area of skin, around a burn, for example.

SCC is mainly caused by too much sun exposure over the course of a lifetime. It can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow, since it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Patients who have had basal carcinoma are at a higher risk of developing SCC, as are people who work or spend a lot of their leisure time outdoors. People with fair skin, light hair and blue, green or grey eyes are at highest risk. Individuals who have had needed a large number of X-rays or who have been exposed to certain toxic chemicals also have an increased risk.

Men are affected more than women, with SCCs usually appearing from the age of 50 and are most frequently seen in people in their 70s.

A sore that does not heal can be a sign of squamous cell cancer. Any change in an existing  wartmole, or other skin lesion could be a sign of skin cancer.

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