Squamous cell cancer of the skin is a common cancer, and the number of cases increases every year. Read below to learn more about this common skin cancer.
Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common skin cancer, behind basal cell carcinoma. Approximately 1 million cases of squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. But that’s probably an underestimate! Unlike other cancers, nonmelanoma skin cancers are not tracked by government health officials in a database (registry), so the number of cases is probably higher than the estimate.
Approximately 7,000 people in the United States die from squamous cell skin cancer each year. In the southern and central parts of the United States, squamous cell skin cancer is more common because of increased sun exposure. In these regions, the death rate from squamous cell skin cancer approximates that of kidney cancer, head-and-neck cancer, and melanoma.
Squamous cell skin cancer is a growing problem: The number of new squamous cell skin cancer cases occurring every year (incidence) increased nearly three-fold in the 35-year period ending in 2010.
Why are the numbers rising?
Squamous cell skin cancer arises from squamous cells in our skin. It is one of three more common types of skin cancer as discussed below. As shown in the diagram, the top layer of your skin, the epidermis, is made up of basal cells, melanocytes, and squamous cells. The basal cells form the bottom portion of this layer, and these cells eventually move up, change, and become the squamous cells that flake off. If basal cells become cancerous, the condition is known as basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Melanocytes are the cells that produce a brown pigment called melanin to add color to our skin. If these cells become cancerous, the condition is called melanoma. Squamous cells, which are found in the upper portions of the epidermis, make a protein called keratin, which is found in our skin, hair, and nails. When they grow out of control and become cancerous, they develop into squamous cell skin cancer. Heard of other cancers called squamous cell carcinomas? See the box Science Sidebar.
What is squamous cell skin cancer like? For pictures of squamous cell skin cancer, see Images. Here are some details to know about this cancer: