Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Squamous Cell Cancer Anatomy

To better understand squamous cell carcinoma , it helps to understand the anatomy of the skin.

The skin contains three main layers:

  • Epidermis:
    • The superficial layer that makes up the surface of the skin
    • It is composed of skin cells and can be divided into 5 layers based on cell type.
    • The top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is made of dead, flat skin cells that shed about every 2 weeks.
    • The thickness of the epidermis varies, according to location: it is very thick over the soles of the feet, and very thin over the ears.
  • Dermis:
    • Lies beneath the epidermis
    • Also varies in thickness depending on the location of the skin. It is .3 mm on the eyelid and 3.0 mm on the back.
    • The dermis is composed of 2 layers that contain a connective tissue called collagen
    • The dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
    • The number of structures in the dermis varies, according to location.
    • The dermis under the arms contains more sweat glands and hair follicles than the dermis on the back.
  • Subcutaneous layer:
    • Mainly fat and connective tissue.
    • Contains blood vessels and nerves.

Last Updated: Jan 5, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Squamous Cell Cancer References
  1. Campbell FA, Gupta G. The management of non-melanoma skin cancer. Hosp Med. 2005 May;66(5):288-93. [15920859]
  2. Clayman GL, Lee JJ, Holsinger FC, et al. Mortality risk from squamous cell skin cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2005 Feb 1;23(4):759-65. [15681519]
  3. Einspahr JG, Bowden GT, Alberts DS. Skin cancer chemoprevention: strategies to save our skin. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2003;163:151-64; discussion 264-6. [12903851]
  4. Glass AG, Hoover RN. The emerging epidemic of melanoma and squamous cell skin cancer. JAMA. 1989 Oct 20;262(15):2097-100. [2795783]
  5. Yuspa SH. The pathogenesis of squamous cell cancer: lessons learned from studies of skin carcinogenesis. J Dermatol Sci. 1998 May;17(1):1-7. [9651822]
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