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Monday, 11 September 2017

Tom Alter Cancer Diagnosis: What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Bollywood actor Tom Alter, best-known for playing Charles on Zabaan Sambhal Ke and gangster Keshav Kalsi in Junoon, has reportedly been suffering from squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of cancer. According to a report published in the Times of India, the 67-year-old actor is currently undergoing treatment at Saifee Hospital at Charni Road. Born to English-Scottish Christian missionary parents in Mussoorie, Tom has endeared himself to the Indian audience with his brilliant portrayal of characters on the silver screen and on the stage, in a career that has spanned more than four decades.
The news about his cancer diagnosis has sent shockwaves across the industry, especially because the cancer episode is a relapse. There is a lot of speculation regarding Tom’s condition and if reports are to go by, the actor is, unfortunately, battling stage four of the cancer.
What is squamous cell carcinoma?
Also known by its other name epidermoid cancer, SCC is a blanket name given to different types of cancer that originate from the squamous cells. Common types of the disease include:

Squamous cell skin cancer that affects the skin
Squamous cell carcinoma that affects the lungs
Squamous cell thyroid carcinoma that affects the thyroid
Oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma that affects the oesophagus

SCC occurs in all the parts of the body, including the genitalia and the mucous membranes. But it is commonly seen in areas that are exposed to the sunlight such as head, ears, neck and back of the hands. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it is the second-most common type of skin cancer after basal skin carcinoma. Over the years, the incidence of the cancer has steadily increased, but the case-fatality rate of the cancer is only around one percent.
What causes SCC?
The risk of SCC depends on two main factors:

Amount of sun exposure
Degree of pigmentation

The causes include:

Direct, unprotected exposure to strong sunlight and is prevalent in people who are light-skinned.
Ultraviolet radiation emanating from tanning salons
Exposure to chemical products like tar, contaminated water that contains traces of arsenic, herbicides, insecticides and tobacco
Severe burns, chronic ulcers and HPV infections

(Read: What is HPV?)
The incidence of SCC is quite high, but if they are promptly detected, diagnosed and treated the percentage of cure is approximately 95 percent. So it is important to ensure the early detection or prevention for these type of tumours.
Who is it common in?

SCC affects more men than women. The incidence of the cancer is two times more in men.
The incidence of SCC increases with age, especially in people who have crossed the age of 60.
These days, SCC is also seen in people who are as young as 40 years old.
Light-skinned people with skin phototypes I and II according to Fitzpatrick’s Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology.
People whose skin doesn’t tend to tan and have a tendency to get sunburnt are at greater risk.
Light-haired and blue-eyed people are also at risk.

1.Nasser, N., Nasser Filho, N., & Lehmkuhl, R. L. (2015). Squamous cell cancer – 31-year epidemiological study in a city of south Brazil. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 90(1), 21–26.
Image source: YouTube/Rajya Sabha TV

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