Squamous cell carcinoma: Causes
1. Chronic exposure to sun
The most common cause of squamous cell carcinoma is the exposure to the sun. This threat becomes more imminent if one lives in an area that receives greater sunshine. The sun contains ultraviolet radiation. This radiation penetrates the skin cells and causes irreversible damage to the DNA which in turn leads to carcinoma. It is important to remember that even when the sunlight is not harsh, as on a cloudy day or in winter, skin cancer can be caused. This is because in such conditions, only the visible part (which lends brightness) and the infrared part (which causes heating) of sunlight is reduced. The ultraviolet rays are not reduced by any degree.
2. Usage of tanning beds
The myth that an indoor tanning bed is safer than exposure to sun outside has lead people to increasingly make use of tanning salons. It has been estimated that the risk of skin cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma more than doubles in people who make regular use of tanning beds. The tanning bed envelops a person and provides a skin tan by radiating the skin. There is no heat because the infrared rays are absent. However, squamous cell carcinoma is a result. This is because, though the beds are not ‘hot’, they give out a lot of ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation that causes cancer.
3. Sex and age
Not much can be done about one’s age and sex. But squamous cell carcinoma seems to have a peculiar inclination towards men compared to women. This might be because of the increased exposure to sun that men receive. The cancer also seems to pick those above 45 years of age. With age, the immunity of the person reduces. The immune system is strongest between the ages 20 to 35 years. And so, the elders stand a higher risk of skin cancer. That is, however, changing now with youth making incremental use of tanning beds and sun-tanning for cosmetic purposes.
4. History of skin cancer
When a person suffers once from squamous cell carcinoma, irrespective of the success of the treatment, he/she stands the chance of contracting it again. This can happen either at the same place or a different region on the body. Even if one has not had previous exposure to squamous cell carcinoma, if the members of the immediate family have suffered it, then also the chances of contracting the condition increases considerably. These facts have been established through detailed studies. Having either a personal or family history of squamous cell carcinoma is a high-risk factor.
5. Skin sensitivity
Every individual has different skin sensitivity to sunlight. However, some generalizations can be made. Those with fair skin have less melanin in the skin and thus are more prone to get affected negatively by exposure to the sunlight. This increases the chances of squamous cell carcinoma. Some medicines also, that are available over-the-counter like antibiotics, anti-blood pressure pills and the like, are known to increase the sensitivity of the skin. In extreme cases, these medications too can cause skin cancer because an extra sensitive skin responds more intensely to the sunlight compared to a normal and healthy skin.
6. Weakened immune system
It is a known fact that people with a weak immune system are susceptible to many disorders and diseases. This holds true for squamous cell carcinoma also. Thus, patients of HIV/AIDS stand a very high risk of contracting skin cancer. The same is true of those who have undergone organ transplants because such surgeries entail a lot of medication which suppress the immune system in order to ensure that the new organ is not rejected. Any other situation that strikes against the immune system increases one’s susceptibility. Having nutritious food that strengthens the immune system thus becomes vital in holding out against skin cancer.
Among the hundreds of disadvantages and dangers of smoking lies the danger of contracting skin cancer too. This is true of any other form in which tobacco is taken into the body which includes inhaling and chewing. This is because tobacco contains nicotine and other chemicals that have the ability to modify and tamper with the DNA of the cells. Such cell-mutations and changes in the DNA lead to the loss of the in-built limits and controls of cell division. This irreversible and uncontrollable division of cells leads to the formation of tumors which in course of time can result in skin cancer.
8. Severe injuries and inflammation of the skin
Surprisingly, it has been observed that a large scar on the skin can gradually lead to squamous cell carcinoma. In some cases, even an extreme skin infection has been known to lead to this skin cancer. Other inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis also lead to a person developing the disease. It is important to remember that these are risk factors and are not indicative of skin cancer. These cause squamous cell carcinoma because severe injuries can trigger a rapid cell multiplication. If this multiplication goes even slightly awry, then there is abnormal growth and an increased chance of cancer.
9. Exposure to X-Rays and UV rays
Every fracture needs an X-Ray. In fact, nowadays, even every suspected fracture is recommended for X-Ray to make a decision on whether the bone is broken or not. Exposure to these X-Rays can cause squamous cell carcinoma as the skin is repeatedly penetrated by these high energy rays. UV rays are used in the treatment of some conditions. For instance, psoralen and ultraviolet light A therapy ( called PUVA therapy) is recommended for treating psoriasis. This leads to an increased risk of skin cancer. It is thus very clear that irrespective of the motive behind the usage of radiations, they are harmful for the individual.