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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Squamous cells are found on the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Therefore, squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) can arise in any of these tissues. SCCs of the skin occurs roughly 1/4 as commonly as basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Light-colored skin and sun exposure are even more important in predisposing to this kind of cancer than to basal cell carcinoma. Men are affected more often than women. Women, whose hair generally covers their ears, develop squamous cell carcinomas far less often in this location than do men. The most important factor in producing SCCs is sun exposure. Many such growths can develop from precancerous spots, called actinic or solar keratoses. These appear after years of sun damage on parts of the body, commonly on the forehead, cheeks, and backs of the hands. Sun damage takes many years to provoke skin cancer. It is therefore common for people who stopped being "sun worshipers" ealier in life to develop precancerous or cancerous spots decades later. Several rather uncommon factors may predispose to SCC in cluding exposure to arsenic, hydrocarbons, heat, or x-rays. Some squamous cell carcinomas arise in scar tissue. Suppression of the immune system by infection or drugs may also promote such growths. Unlike basal cell carcinomas which rarely spead to other locations, squamous cell carcinomas can metastasize. SCCs usually begin as firm, skin-colored or red nodules that begin within solar keratoses or on sun damaged skin. These are easier to cure and metastasize less often than those that develop in traumatic or radiation scars. One location particularly prone to metastatic spread is the lower lip. Therefore, a proper diagnosis in this location is very important.

Diagnosis

To make a proper diagnosis doctors perform a biopsy taking a sample after injecting local anesthesia by punching out a small piece of skin using a circular punch blade. This is referred to as a "punch biopsy." The skin that is removed is then examined under a microscope for cancer cells.

Treatment

Techniques for treating squamous cell carcinomas are similar to those for basal cell carcinoma. They include curettage and desiccation, a method dermatologists usually prefer scooping out the carcinoma by using a spoon like instrument called a curette. Desiccation involves the application of an electric current to control bleeding and kill the remaining cancer cells. The skin heals without stitching. This technique is best suited for small cancers in non-crucial areas such as the trunk and extremities. Doctors also sometimes surgically excise the tumor and stich up the remaining skin. Radiation treatments are used in areas difficult to treat with surgery. Good cosmetic result can involve many treatment sessions, up to 30. Some doctors are trained in cryosurgery, that is freezing the tumor. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed on to freeze and kill the abnormal cells.

New and Better Treatment

In 1979 Dr. Bill Cham, Ph.D. of Western Australia became interested in a local legend that a plant called Devil's Apple (Solanum linnaeanum) could cure eye cancer in cattle. Over the next many years Dr. Cham managed to isolate the active compounds which turned out to be solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (solosonine and solamargine). These compounds are most available in the common egg plant. To make a long story short, Dr. Cham has proven beyond any doubt that these compounds cure squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas without surgery. They act by being selectively absorbed by cancer cells (while not affecting normal cells) and inducing the cancer cells to destroy themselves by rupture of an intracellular structure called a lysosome. As the cancer cells die they are replaced by normal cells producing an almost perfect cosmetic result. This product is marketed in cream form and is called "Curaderm BEC5." Twelve weeks of twice daily application produces 100% cure of these two cancers.

Even more exciting is the possibility that these compounds may turn out to be a cure for all cancers. At least in the test tube they are extremely lethal to cancer cells, much more than any chemotherapy drug on the market. Also, these compounds have almost no toxicity to normal cells - which, of course, is the BIG problem with chemotherapy agents. Apparently, it is only a problem of getting these compounds to the cancer. In skin cancer it is simple - just rub it on. However, it is not yet clear how to bring these compounds into contact with internal cancers. This is undergoing intense research at this time.

Prevention

Even more so than is the case with basal cell carcinoma, the key principles of prevention are minimizing sun exposure and getting regular checkups. It mekes sense to limiting recreational sun exposure, avoiding unprotected exposure to the sun during peak radiation times (the hours surrounding noon), wear protective clothing, use high quality water proof UVA sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, and have regular checkups bringing any suspicious lesions to the attention of your doctor.



The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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