Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a form of cancer of the carcinoma type that may occur in many different organs, including the skin, lips, mouth, esophagus, urinary bladder, prostate, lungs, vagina, and cervix. It is a malignant tumor of squamous epithelium (epithelium that shows squamous cell differentiation). Despite the common name, these are unique cancers with large differences in manifestation and prognosis.
Most squamous cell carcinomas are removed with surgery. A few selected cases are treated with topical medication. Surgical excision with a free margin of healthy tissue is a frequent treatment modality. Radiotherapy, given as external beam radiotherapy or as brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy), can also be used to treat squamous cell carcinomas.
Mohs surgery is frequently utilized; considered the treatment of choice for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, physicians have also utilized the method for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth, throat, and neck. An equivalent method of the CCPDMA standards can be utilized by a pathologist in the absence of a Mohs-trained physician. Radiation therapy often used afterward in high risk cancer or patient types.
Electrodessication and curettage or EDC can be done on selected squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. In areas where SCC’s are known to be non-aggressive, and where the patient is not immunosuppressed, EDC can be performed with good to adequate cure rate.
Imiquimod (Aldara) has been used with success for squamous cell carcinoma in situ of the skin and the penis, but the morbidity and discomfort of the treatment is severe. An advantage is the cosmetic result: after treatment, the skin resembles normal skin without the usual scarring and morbidity associated with standard excision. Imiquimod is not FDA-approved for any squamous cell carcinoma.
In 2007, Australian biopharmaceutical company Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Limited began clinical trials with an experimental treatment, a melanocyte-stimulating hormone called afamelanotide (formerly CUV1647) to provide photoprotection for organ transplant patients against squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and actinic keratosis.
Epidemiology of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
Incidence of squamous cell carcinoma varies with age, gender, race, geography, and genetics. The incidence of SCC increases with age and the peak incidence is usually around 66 years old. Males are affected with SCC at a ratio of 2:1 in comparison to females. Caucasians are more likely to be affected, especially those with fair Celtic skin, if chronically exposed to UV radiation. There are also a few rare congenital diseases predisposed to cutaneous malignancy. In certain geographic locations, exposure to arsenic in well water or from industrial sources may significantly increase the risk of SCC.
Epidemiology of squamous cell cancer not involving the skin
These are discussed under the heading of Cause and include exposure to factors such as smoking, alcohol, betel nut (combination of the betel leaf and areca nut), carcinogens, human papilloma virus or hpv, and chronic esophageal reflux disease (GERD) risks.