What Is Bowen Disease? Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Bowen disease is a skin condition. The disease is said to be a precursor stage of skin cancer. The skin lesion appears as a slow growing red and scaly skin patch. The lesion is situated on the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis. It does not invade the lower dermis of the skin.

The disease is named after an American dermatologist, John T Bowen who described the symptoms of the disease. The disease is not very common.

A very early form of skin cancer, Bowen disease can occur anywhere on the body surface, but primarily it affects the lower extremities.

Due to the red scaly patches, Bowen disease is often mistaken as psoriasis. The exact etiology of Bowen disease is not very well understood, however exposure to sunlight is considered to be the main risk factor.

The disease is more common in people above the age of 60. It is not contagious and can be successfully treated. If it remains untreated, Bowen disease may ultimately progress to invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

What Are The Causes Of Bowen’s Disease?

There is no apparent reason that can be implicated for development of Bowen’s disease. However, there are numerous risk factors suspected for its development.

They include;

  • Age: It is a disease of adulthood. People over 60 are particularly prone to this condition.
  • The lesions are commonly seen in people having fairer skin, especially on sun exposed areas. The condition rarely occurs in dark skin individuals.
  • Males and females are equally affected by the disease. In men, head and neck involvement is more common where as in women; there is predilection of lesions in lower limbs and cheeks.
  • Exposure to sunlight is suspected to be a risk factor. However, covered areas such as genitals are also affected. Thus, sun exposure cannot be the only risk factor.
  • People who are exposed to arsenic are at an increased risk of suffering from Bowen disease.
  • History of previous damage to the skin.
  • History of radiotherapy for treating some other cancerous condition.

Signs And Symptoms Of Bowen’s Disease

The skin lesion of Bowen disease appears red having an irregular outline. It is a scaly lesion. It is slightly raised patch.

  • The patch may grow slowly and laterally over the skin surface.
  • The patches generally appear on sun exposed areas of the skin. However the patches can also be found on covered areas; genital region. Patches on genital area are more prone to become cancerous than those at other sites.
  • There may be a single patch or there may be multiple patches.
  • The red patch can crack or form an ulcer. It may sometimes bleed. If that is so, it may be a sign that the patch is becoming cancerous.
  • In its early stage, people can confuse it with ringworm or psoriasis.
  • Since the patches have no symptoms of pain, itching etc, they are often overlooked.
  • Generally the patches appear on lower part of the body.

Bowen Disease Treatment Options

Many times patient overlooks the condition and it may be detected by a doctor during routine skin examination. Physical examination, detailed medical history and biopsy sample are three important tools to confirm Bowen’s disease.

Patient suffering from Bowen disease may have several treatment options. It depends on site of the patch, its size, how thick it is etc. Generally a dermatologist treats such condition.

  • Creams and ointment: certain creams are used to kill the abnormal cells, they are prescribed by dermatologists. These creams can be easily applied by the patient.
  • Cryotherapy: the patches are destroyed with liquid nitrogen. It is extremely cold. It is a freezing treatment. There is a risk of ulcer formation with this treatment. Success rate is considerably high.
  • Curettage: the patch is crapped and cauterized. Cauterization is a type of method for light burning.
  • Photodynamic therapy: certain type of light with particular waves is used destruct the lesions.
  • Surgery: here the lesion is surgically removed and the wound is sutured.