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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors

Squamous cell carcinoma shares many risk factors with other types of skin cancer. Extensive UV exposure, for instance, is one of the most well-established risk factors for all forms of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and melanomas. Repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays – whether from the sun or an indoor tanning booth - can significantly damage the skin, potentially causing healthy cells to become cancerous. And, while a history of UV exposure does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop cancer, it does heighten the importance of routine skin cancer screenings.

Many other risk factors associated with squamous cell carcinoma have a direct link to UV exposure. For instance:

  • People with fair or freckled skin are especially susceptible to sunburns, which can increase their likelihood of sustaining ultraviolet light-induced cell damage.
  • People with an inherited condition known as xeroderma pigmentosum have an extreme sensitivity to sunlight are also very susceptible to cellular damage caused by UVA and UVB rays.
  • Males are nearly three times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than females, which may be partially attributed to their comparatively higher tendency to spend time outdoors without adequate sun protection.
  • Older adults are more frequently diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma than younger individuals, presumably due to the cumulative effects of UV exposure over a person’s lifetime.
  • People with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases often receive ultraviolet light-based treatments, which can increase their risk of developing skin cancer in the future.

Additional risk factors include exposure to large amounts of arsenic, coal tar or other carcinogenic chemicals; smoking; chronic ulcers and a history of radiation therapy for previous cancers. Also, a person who has already been diagnosed with skin cancer has an elevated risk of developing a second skin cancer during his or her lifetime. 

To learn more about squamous cell carcinoma risk factors or to consult with one of Moffitt Cancer Center’s expert oncologists regarding your own personal skin cancer risk, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. A referral is not required.


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