Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon
    Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon

      SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA

      What is Squamous cell carcinoma?

      Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer.

      What are the risk factors for developing SCC?

      Cumulative exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds is the main risk factor although radiotherapy, non-healing ulcers and certain viruses can also pose a risk of SCC in the areas affected.

      People who have low levels or an absence of protective melanin pigment in their skin, i.e. those who burn easily in the sun and those born with Albinism.

      People who are immunosuppressed as a result of disease or immunosuppressive medication e.g. for autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis or following transplant surgery.

      How is SCC treated?

      Treatment is usually surgical removal of the abnormal area with a safety margin to ensure that all traces of the tumour are gone. This is normally performed under local anaesthetic. If the SCC is large, recurrent after previous treatment or situated in a functionally or cosmetically sensitive area such as the eyelids, a specialist technique known as Mohs Micrographic surgery may be indicated.

      Radiotherapy tends to be less effective with higher rates of recurrence but can be considered in some cases.

      Prevention of SCC

      UV damage to skin can be avoided by wearing a hat and sunglasses. In addition using a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection (e.g. iS Extreme Protect SPF 30) to your face, neck and décolletage 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours and additionally after swimming to towel dried skin.
      Children are especially susceptible to sun damage so particular care should be taken to protect their skin.
      Avoiding sun exposure may lead to reduced vitamin D levels and supplementation should be considered. Vitamin D3 10-25micrograms (400-1000u) is readily available from supermarkets. If unsure, your GP can measure your vitamin D levels and may be able to specify the level of supplementation needed, if any. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs, oily fish, meat, fortified cereals and spreads.

      Further information on BCC can be found at bad.org.uk

      Additional resources

      Skin Cancer Foundation
      DermNet

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