What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous Cell Carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, is often a scaly, growing lesion and is also usually on the sun-exposed skin.

Risk factors include:

  • History of sun exposure (more common in sunny climates closer to the equator)  
  • Patients who are “immunosuppressed” (such as after an organ transplant)
  • Smoking may further increase the risk, especially on the lips.
  • May develop from actinic keratoses

May appear as:

  • Firm pink bumps on the hands
  • Tender, easily bleeding sores on the face



Similar to basal cell carcinoma, SCC is diagnosed by a biopsy in the dermatologist’s office.  Squamous cell carcinoma may metastasize in 0.5-5% of cases, so very rarely. The risk of metastasis may be higher when found on the lower lip.



  • Use of regular sun protection including sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater
  • Sun protective clothing such as long sleeves and hats
  • Avoidance of the mid day sun
  • Regular skin checks


Treatment Options

Squamous cell carcinoma is best treated surgically either in your dermatologist’s office or by a specialized Mohs surgeon. In some cases, recommended treatment includes a topical chemotherapy cream for 6-8 weeks, radiation, or a specialized light therapy.