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Squamous cell carcinoma – causes, side effects and treatments at

Tuesday, June 26, 2018 by

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), also called squamous cell cancer, is the rapid growth of abnormal cells in the skin. Squamous cells, where this cancer originates, are thin, flat cells that are found in the tissue that forms the skin’s surface and the lining of the hollow organs of the body like the respiratory and digestive tracts. In some cases, it’s referred to as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC), where cutaneous means “skin,” to differentiate it from other SCCs in the body.

SCC will physically present itself in the body as anywhere from scaly red patches, open sores, warts, or even elevated growths with a central depression – with some reporting to have crusting or bleeding.

SCCs are one of the most common types of cancer. In the U.S., more than one million new cases are reported each year, with 15,000 dying from it. In particular, experts believe that chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation over a person’s lifetime is the cause of most SCCs.

SCCs can form in areas exposed to the sun (i.e., the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs). However, it can also be found in the mucous membranes and the genitals.

Known risk factors and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma

People who have an increased chance of developing SCC have the following risk factors.

  • Fair skin
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun
  • Regularly use tanning beds
  • Have a history of sunburns
  • Have had precancerous skin lesions (i.e., actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease)
  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Compromised immune system
  • Born with xeroderma pigmentosum, a genetic disorder

The hallmark symptom of an SCC is the presence of an area in the skin described to be rough, scaly, thickened, and wartlike. This area bleeds when scratched or scraped, and it forms a sore with a crusty surface and raised edges. A skin sore that does not heal over time is also a sign of SCC.

Body systems affected by squamous cell carcinoma

Complications following an SCC include:

  • Discomfort and irritability, especially in the affected area
  • The appearance of large lesions and sores which may cause bacterial or fungal infections
  • Permanent scarring
  • Metastasis into the lymph nodes
  • Perineural invasion, that is, the presence of invading tumors in the nerves

In addition, the presence of SCC in these areas could increase the risk of metastasis.

  • Lips
  • Penile skin
  • Scarred areas (i.e., from radiation or burns)
  • Vulvar skin
  • Perianal skin

Tumors in these areas that are over 2 cm in size could also lead to recurrence and metastasis.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent squamous cell carcinoma

The risk of SCC, as well as other types of skin cancer, could be attenuated by adjusting a person’s diet to include more food items that are rich in antioxidants, as these help the cells become more resistant to damage and oxidation, which cause cancer.

Some effective antioxidants include:

  • Beta-carotene, which is present in carrots, mangoes, kale, sweet potatoes, and squash.
  • Lutein, found in green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, and kale.
  • Lycopene, a compound famously found in tomatoes, as well as in watermelon, guava, and apricots.
  • Selenium, which can reduce the risk of skin cancer by 50 percent and is found in certain nuts.
  • Vitamin A in sweet potatoes and egg yolks.
  • Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant present in fruits and berries,
  • Vitamin E, which is present in nuts and oils.

Treatments, management options for squamous cell carcinoma

A person who is at risk of SCC would do well to have their healthcare provider examine their skin once every three years starting from age 20 and once each year after the age of 40. He could also check himself once a month, taking note of any unusual growth in the skin.

In addition, the following steps would significantly reduce the risk of having SCC.

  • Reduce exposure to sunlight, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear wide-brim hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants to protect the skin while going out.
  • Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.

Surfaces that are painted white, as well as water, sand, and concrete – as well as high-altitude areas – increase the risk of developing SCC.

Where to learn more


Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the rapid growth of abnormal cells in the squamous cells of the skin.

SCC can develop from scaly red patches, open sores, warts, or even elevated growths.

SCC is one of the most common types of cancer.

SCC can form in areas exposed to the sun.

SCC, as well as other types of skin cancer, could be prevented by including more fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants.

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