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Clinical features and diagnosis of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Jean Lee Lim, MD
Maryam Asgari, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Robert S Stern, MD
June K Robinson, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) presents with a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including papules, plaques, or nodules, and smooth, hyperkeratotic, or ulcerative lesions. Skin biopsies are required to confirm the diagnosis. Biopsies also provide information that is useful for staging.

The clinical presentation and diagnosis of SCC will be reviewed here. The epidemiology and risk factors for the development of SCC and the treatment of cutaneous SCC are reviewed separately. (See "Epidemiology and risk factors for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma" and "Evaluation for locoregional and distant metastases in cutaneous squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma" and "Treatment and prognosis of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma".)


Location — SCC can develop on any cutaneous surface, including the head, neck, trunk, extremities, oral mucosa, periungual skin, and anogenital areas (picture 1A-D). In fair-skinned individuals, SCCs most commonly arise in sites frequently exposed to the sun. In a cohort of 145 patients with SCC in Australia, the following distribution of SCC was observed [1].

Head and neck (55 percent)

Dorsum of the hands and forearms (18 percent)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 08, 2017.
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