Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cause

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), some of which include the individual's work environment and the presence of certain comorbidities.

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Risk factors

SCC is a health condition that often affects areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight, although there are several other risk factors. Areas that are affected by severe burns, infections, or other damage, particularly on a chronic basis, are more likely to be affected by squamous cell carcinoma.

Additional risk factors for SCC include:

  • Fair complexion and light-colored hair
  • Regular exposure to the sun over a long period of time
  • Severe sunburn in early life
  • Age
  • X-rays
  • Chemical exposure
  • Family History
  • Smoking
  • Albinism
  • Male
  • Xeroderma pigmentosum
  • Immune system suppression
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection

These risk factors are linked to SCC and are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of the condition. Exposure to UV radiation, in particular, has been exposed as a cause of the condition.

UV light exposure

The primary risk factor for SCC is exposure to UV radiation, which is present in the sunlight and the radiation used in tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the DNA of the skin cells that can affect cell replication and growth over time.

Some individuals are more susceptible to the damage from UV radiation than others. The color of the skin is an important factor; to this end, people with fairer skin are much more likely to be affected by SCC as compared to people with darker skin. This is because the level of melanin in the skin differs and offers more protection for people with darker skin.

It is this concept that accounts for the high incidence of SCC in Australia and New Zealand. The population in these nations is largely of Caucasian origin with predominantly fair skin, which is susceptible to the high level of UV radiation from sunlight in these regions, thereby increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Chemical exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic, can increase the risk of developing SCC. Additionally, people who work in environments that cause them to be exposed to coal tar, paraffin, and certain types of oil are often at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.

Radiation exposure

Individuals who have been exposed to radiation as a medical treatment have a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. This is a prominent concern for children that require radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer.

In particular, patients that require psoralen and ultraviolet radiation (PUVA) treatments in the management of severe psoriasis are more likely to be affected by skin cancer.

Related conditions

Some health conditions may be involved in the pathogenesis of SCC. For example, individuals with the rare congenital condition of basal cell nevus syndrome, which is also known as Gorlin syndrome, are much more likely to suffer from SCC. In fact, many patients with Gorlin syndrome will develop several skin tumors over the course of their lifetime.

Immune system suppression

The immune system plays an important role in the regulation of cells in the body and helps to eradicate abnormal cells with cancerous properties.

For this reason, individuals with a weakened immune system, which can be due to a medical condition or pharmaceutical medication, are more likely to develop SCC and other skin cancers.


Further Reading

Last Updated: May 10, 2021

Susan Chow

Written by

Susan Chow

Susan holds a Ph.D in cell and molecular biology from Dartmouth College in the United States and is also a certified editor in the life sciences (ELS). She worked in a diabetes research lab for many years before becoming a medical and scientific writer. Susan loves to write about all aspects of science and medicine but is particularly passionate about sharing advances in cancer therapies. Outside of work, Susan enjoys reading, spending time at the lake, and watching her sons play sports.


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