Skin cancer: How to spot the signs of squamous cell carcinoma and when to visit a GP

Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden has recently spoken out about the potential signs of skin cancer, after being diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in 2015.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer and is characterised by abnormal growth of squamous cells, claims the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Every year in the UK, around 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed.

According to the NHS, SCC starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for around 20 in every 100 skin cancers.

This type of skin cancer is not usually life threatening and can be easily treated if caught early.

But left untreated, these lesions can become deadly and spread to other parts of the body, causing serious complications.

Most SCC cases result from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from the sun or tanning beds.

Avoiding exposure to UV light can help to lower your risk of SCC of the skin, as well as other types of skin cancer.

What are the symptoms of SCC?
SCC usually develops on areas commonly exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, shoulders, upper chest and back.

But they can also occur anywhere on your body, including on your genitals and inside your mouth.

The disease affects more men than women and is more common in the elderly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of of SCC to watch out for include:

A firm, red nodule

A flat sore with a scaly crust

A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer

A rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore

A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth

A red, raised patch or wart-like sore on or in the anus or on your genitals

The NHS has added that SCC may first appear as a firm pink lump with a rough or crusted surface.

This lump may feel tender when touched, bleed easily and develop into an ulcer.

You are advised to consult your GP if you have a skin abnormality, such as a lump, ulcer, lesion or skin discolouration that has not healed after four weeks.

What treatment options are available for SCC?
The main treatment for SCC involves surgery to remove the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.

Other treatments commonly used are freezing (cryotherapy), anti-cancer creams, radiotherapy and a light treatment known as photodynamic therapy (PDT).

The treatment used will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer.