Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer in the United States. It accounts for about 15 percent of all skin cancers. The majority of squamous cell skin cancers are easily and successfully treated with current therapies.

The three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma — are distinct entities. They don’t transform from one type to another.

The skin is made up of three layers. The top layer is called the epidermis. This is where most skin cancers, including squamous cell skin cancer, arise.

Signs and Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell skin cancers most commonly appear on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, ears, lips, and neck. Signs that squamous cells in the skin have begun to grow out of control and have become cancerous include an area that’s become:

  • rough
  • scaly
  • thickened  
  • wartlike

Other warning signs are if the patch of skin bleeds when scraped or scratched, a sore with raised edges and a crusty surface develops, or a skin sore doesn’t heal over time.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our doctors can successfully diagnose and treat squamous cell skin cancer. We use surgery, radiation therapy, and other approaches to treat this highly curable cancer.