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What causes a squamous cell carcinoma?

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Squamous cell carcinoma is caused primarily by regular exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sunlight or a tanning bed. Other causes include long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, serious burns, persistent ulcers or sores on the skin, and certain types of the human papillomavirus, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

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Squamous cell carcinoma develops in thin, flat squamous cells that comprise the outer layer of skin, according to Mayo Clinic. While typically not life-threatening, if left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to other areas, leading to complications.

Each year approximately 700,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States, as reported by the American Academy of Dermatology. Those at the highest risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma have fair skin, light hair, and blue, green or gray eyes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. People who have previously had a squamous cell carcinoma are at risk of recurrence. Additionally, those with a history of basal cell carcinoma are also likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.

To aid in preventing squamous cell carcinoma, the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that people seek shade, avoid burns, avoid tanning and the use of tanning beds, cover up with clothing, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. It also recommends keeping newborns out of the sun, examining skin from head to toe every month, and seeing a doctor for an annual skin exam.

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