Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common forms of skin cancer, affecting more than one million people in the US alone each year. While it is usually easily treatable, it can become deadly if it spreads beyond the skin and into the lymph nodes or internal organs of the body. That’s why prevention is so important.
But first, some background on squamous cell carcinoma:
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs when squamous cells in the top layers of the skin (known as the epidermis) begin to grow uncontrollably. This uncontrolled growth is usually a result of cellular damage typically caused by repeated exposure to UV rays over time. This means that people who use tanning beds or those who spend a lot of time outdoors are at a much higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma as well as people with fair skin. In some cases, squamous cell carcinoma can be caused by other factors such as exposure to toxic substances or a weakened immune system. This puts people who have a history of actinic keratosis, those who have had some form of the human papillomavirus or those who have been badly burned in the past at a higher risk for developing the cancer as well.
Steps to prevent squamous cell carcinoma:
Taking the proper precautions for your skin greatly lowers your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Make sure you:
- Limit sun exposure: The best way to prevent squamous cell carcinoma is to limit your sun exposure. Especially in sunny areas, seek shade between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Avoid tanning beds: Limiting UV exposure doesn’t only apply to the sun. As you may have guessed, tanning beds are a big no-no too as they greatly increase skin cancer risk.
- Apply sunscreen frequently: Use a broad spectrum (meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, even if it’s not sunny out. Apply sunscreen regularly (at least every two hours and more often when sweating or getting wet).
- Don’t forget protective clothing: If you are going to be in the sun, don’t rely on sunscreen alone. Clothing is also an effective way to protect your skin. So grab a hat, put on some sunglasses and throw on a shirt over your swim suit to keep your skin safe. Also consider purchasing some sun protective clothing which is specifically designed to block UV rays and comes with a UPF rating (which functions like SPF).
- Know the signs & check yourself often: It’s important to check your body from head-to-toe frequently to detect any potentially dangerous changes in moles or spots. But first, make sure you know what you’re looking for and educate yourself on the warning signs of skin cancer. If you have any concerns about a mole or growth, get in touch with a doctor or dermatologist immediately to have it checked out. While most moles and blemishes are non-cancerous, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.