Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What you need to know about squamous cell skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer among African Americans and Asian Indians. It’s the second most common skin cancer in Hispanics, East Asians, and Caucasians.

Other characteristics of those at higher risk:

  • Fair-skinned people with a history of sun exposure (including tanning bed use)
  • More often men than women
  • People older than age 55
  • People with a personal or family history of skin cancer
  • People who are immunosuppressed, such as an organ transplant recipient

This type of skin cancer rarely spreads to other areas of the body. If you have a chronic, bleeding skin growth or skin ulcer that does not heal, see a dermatologist.


Squamous cell carcinoma often appears as a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion. It may be a scaly crust on the face, lower lip, ears, neck, hand, arms, or legs. You may even see ulcers in a pre-existing scar.

Inside the mouth, squamous cell carcinoma may be an ulcer or flat, white patch. In the genital or anal area, it can look like a red, raised patch or ulcer. A nodule or mole-like lesion on the skin may have an eroded, crusted center with firm, elevated margins. Lesions most often appear on sun-exposed areas, commonly the head and neck.

Your Henry Ford dermatologist will look for lesions, patches, ulcers, and nodules during a skin cancer screening. If we suspect squamous cell carcinoma, we’ll take a biopsy to be sure.


Squamous cell skin cancer is highly curable with early detection and proper treatment. Treatment options are similar to those for basal cell carcinoma:

  • Curettage and electrodessication: We scrape off the lesion and use an electrical current to burn off the remaining cancer cells.
  • Excisional surgery: We cut the cancerous mole or lesion from the skin.
  • Mohs surgery: We use this surgery to spare as much healthy skin as we can.

The Henry Ford skin cancer team will talk with you about the treatment options that will give the best results.
Once you’ve had skin cancer, you’re at higher risk to develop it again. Practice sun safety after treatment to avoid a new skin cancer.

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