What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that occurs in the outermost part of the epidermis (skin surface) or the surface of certain portions of the body (areas of the head and neck or genitalia) known as squamous cells. If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to nearby lymph nodes, bones or distant organs (such as the lungs or liver). Normal squamous tissue usually appears flat. When this tissue develops cancer it can appear as round masses that are can be flat, raised, or ulcerated.

What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma can develop on skin that is often exposed to the sun, such as, skin on the head, neck and face. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer in the United States, after basal cell carcinoma, with about 700,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It accounts for about 2,500 deaths per year.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also develop from the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can affect the surface lining of certain parts of the body, such as the head and neck (most commonly found in areas of the tonsil and base of tongue) and the genitals (vulva, cervix and penis).