What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Although researchers know what causes many cases of squamous cell carcinoma – most notably, excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation – studies are still underway to determine how this type of cancer develops in parts of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sunlight. Past studies show that nearly 95 percent of all nonmelanoma skin cancers are the direct result of DNA changes that occur in the skin after cells are damaged by UVA or UVB rays, and scientists continue to investigate the possible causes of the remaining 5 percent.

Through ongoing studies, researchers are also investigating the exact changes that occur within the body after squamous cells are damaged by UV exposure. Currently, with regard to what causes squamous cell carcinoma, medical professionals know that:

  • Healthy skin regenerates itself every few days. As old cells die, they are pushed to the surface of the skin by the new cells developing underneath. The old cells are then sloughed off.
  • When squamous cells sustain DNA damage, the cells aren’t able to regulate their own growth as they normally should. Abnormal cells can accumulate without dying off and create bumps or sores on the skin.
  • Although squamous cell carcinomas are slow to spread, they can eventually grow into nearby tissues, bones or lymph nodes if not properly treated.

As a leader in squamous cell carcinoma research, Moffitt Cancer Center is actively involved in studies to determine the precise DNA changes that cause cancer to develop in skin cells, including those that are not subjected to UVA or UVB exposure. As a result of our robust research programs, we have been named a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Patients not only choose Moffitt because we hold this prestigious designation, but also due to our unique ability to quickly bring lab discoveries from bench to beside, benefitting all individuals who turn to us for treatment.

To learn more about what causes squamous cell carcinoma, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. You do not need a referral to schedule a visit with one of our expert oncologists.