Numbers in the UK are lower than the US due to population size but the basic message is the same, melanoma is not the only deadly skin cancer.
We don’t want you to worry in one sense, the chances of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) spreading to lymph nodes, or other organs is much lower than malignant melanoma. This is however balanced by a far higher incidence.
There are around 150,000 documented UK skin cancer cases each year and over 20% are SCCs, which account for most non melanoma fatalities. There is also a notable trend for all non melanoma skin cancers:
Improved detection and treatment had seen fatalities consistently fall for 30 years until the trend turned around 2001. We are now back to the position about 40 years ago and whilst population increase plays a part, so does greater incidence.
A combination of lifestyle changes and holidays in the sun over decades has caught up with us. Treatment has continued to improve and digital technology helps with detection but we are not entirely winning the battle.
The best solution of all is to avoid the problem and taking care in the sun can do this, from using good quality sunscreen, to protective clothing. Equally important is prompt action if you are affected by skin cancer of any form.
Early stage treatment is more or less 100% effective for SCCs and can range from non surgical approaches such as photodynamic therapy, to not overly invasive surgery.
You can ensure early care by checking your own skin regularly and having an annual skin cancer check at a specialist centre. An hour a year out of your life can save your life, or for SCCs, considerable inconvenience.
As you have seen, squamous cell carcinoma can be deadly, although in many more cases, is disfiguring and unpleasant if left to develop. Treatment will also be more intensive, expensive and drawn out.
Typical early stage signs of SCCs are areas looking like concentrated sunspots, perhaps reddish, scaly lesions, or sores which don’t stay healed, although symptoms will vary.
If you have concerns, or were told you have a skin cancer but not to worry as this isn’t melanoma, please visit a specialist. There is no need for fatalities from SCCs, we want to see the trend head downwards again.