Squamous cell carcinoma is observed on the topmost and middle layer of the skin. It is not as life-threatening as other forms of cancer. However, just like every cancer, it can metastasize to other parts of the body causing severe complication, which may lead to death. Therefore, in as much as one can establish that cancer of the squamous cell is not one of the ones to dread, but cancer is still cancer, hence should be taken care of with utmost caution and swiftness.

Squamous cell skin carcinoma is a type of skin cancer characterized by uncontrolled growth of squamous cells that affects the outer layers of the skin called the epidermis. It is the second most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer, taking first place is the basal cell carcinoma. Though basal cell carcinomas hardly ever metastasize, squamous cell skin cancers can metastasize if not discovered and treated early. However, if the skin cancer is removed before it grows too big to cause problems, it is rare to see any metastasis.

What is Invasive Squamous Cell Skin Cancer?

Squamous cell skin cancer when it grows very big or uncontrollably can become invasive meaning these abnormal cells extend and spread beyond the epidermis into other layers of the skin. These invasive skin cancer, also known as cutaneous squamous cell skin cancer, are derived from keratin, a protein which makes up our hair and nails. According to researchers, due to DNA mutation and other risk factors like smoking and age, there is a problem with the signaling pathway, and this leads to undifferentiated and abnormal cells. These abnormal cells become lumps on the skin, grow very big then spread through the blood and lymph nodes to distant organs and tissues.

The main presenting symptoms manifested is the enlarging scaly and crusted lumps usually found in areas of the skin exposed to ultraviolet radiation of the sun or tanning beds like the head, neck, and back of hands. This tumor grows over time and may be tender or painful. The size of the lump may vary from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter and may also ulcerate.

How Serious is a Squamous Cell Cancer?

Squamous cell cancer is often termed as the same as basal cell carcinoma which is very incorrect as basal cell carcinoma does not metastasize while squamous cell, on the other hand, may metastasize if it is not diagnosed or left untreated to grow. Although not everyone that has this lump eventually gets metastasis to other organs, this is rare; squamous cell cancer is a serious medical condition which requires medical attention because early diagnosis is critical to prevent complications. This skin cancer is usually cured when treated as early as possible.

Most people who are unfortunate to live and fight the cancer are still at the highest form of risk in getting it again. Research shows that almost half of the survivors may still have it the second time in the space of half a decade. Hence, these people are encouraged to get diagnosed regularly and scan for cancerous cells especially melanoma as often as possible, spread over their lifetime.

Speaking of risk factors, one should know some of these predisposing factors not to be fearful but to be able to take proper care of one’s skin and body. Anybody can get cancer, however, there are some with peculiarities which have been shown to suffer from cancerous formations more than others.

  • Fair Skin: What happens when the intense ray of sun lightens the world goes beyond illumination. Due to the practices of the world, part of the ozone layer protecting the world from Ultraviolet rays has been affected, and some of these rays get through to the earth’s surface. When UV rays come in contact with the skin, they cause mutations and affect normal cells to become cancerous ones.

The melanin in the skin protects the body from the harmful rays of the sun. However, in people with fair skin, the population of the melanin in their skin is very low, making them more exposed to the damage of the harmful sun rays. So studies have revealed that people with darker skins are able to cope with the adverse effects of the sun rays, and they are less likely to have skin cancer, but people with fair skin were more susceptible to having skin cancer.

  • Red Hair, Blond Hair, Light Colored Eyes, and Freckles: Anybody in these categories is more prone to getting skin cancer. Even in people who get sunburn often, they are at serious risk of developing skin cell carcinoma compared to others. Therefore, when even combined with fair skin, these set of people are more likely to have skin cell carcinoma.
  • Excessive Sun Exposure: Even with melanin in the skin, if one overexposes themselves to the sun without any form of reliable protection, they still stand at the risk of having skin cell carcinoma. Therefore, if one has to spend more time in the sun, one still has to take proper care of themselves, in order not to have serious complications.
  • Tanning beds: Individuals that make use of indoor tanning beds have been shown to have a higher risk of having squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
  • A Personal History of Precancerous Skin Lesions or Skin Cancer: People show increased squamous cell cancerous outcomes when they have had previous precancerous skin lesions like actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease. When squamous cell carcinoma of the skin has happened before, there is a chance that it can happen again.
  • Immunocompromised Individuals: When one’s immune system is no longer as strong as it should be, fighting off the development of cancerous cells gets affected, and even if they try at all, they are incompetent at it. This makes the risk of squamous cell carcinoma even more increased. Examples of people who are immunocompromised are those living with leukemia or lymphoma, HIV/AIDS patient, and those on pills which are used to suppress the body’s immunity.
  • Rare Genetic Disorder: Individuals who have Xeroderma Pigmentosum, a disease where people are seen to show extreme sensitivity to sunlight, have also shown a tremendous increase in the prevalence of having squamous cell skin cancer.

Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma Malignant?

Squamous cell carcinoma-like the other skin cancers is malignant. If not diagnosed early, it could grow out of proportion and invade neighboring tissues or organs. It could metastasize and spread to other parts of the body although this happens rarely.

Dermatologist Near Me

The secret of managing any form of cancer is getting it assessed on time. Therefore, one has to do regular check-up with a Dermatologist as they are experts at pinpointing skin cancers. There is a lot of Dermatologists around, they are just one call away, and they will provide adequate care.

It is of utmost importance that once one notices any unusual growth on the skin’s surface, one should be cautious and make sure it is not cancer.




Oakley, A. (2015). Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma | DermNet New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/squamous-cell-carcinoma-of-the-skin

Squamous Cell Carcinoma. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/SkinInformation/AtoZofSkindisease/SquamousCellCarcinoma.aspx

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin – Symptoms and causes. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/squamous-cell-carcinoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20352480