Bowen’s disease is a very early form of skin cancer that’s easily treatable and it appears as a persistent, slow growing, red and scaly skin patch.  Bowen’s disease develops in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin and is sometimes referred to as squamous cell carcinoma in situ.

Bowen’s disease can occur on any part of the body, although the lower legs are most commonly affected.  It is easily mistaken for psoriasis, another skin complaint characterised by red scaly patches.

Bowen’s disease is more common in people who have had a lot of sun exposure, who are infected with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), people who have problems with their immune system, or those who have been exposed to arsenic or radiation.



  • Ultraviolet radiation. Exposure of the skin to sunlight is the major cause of Bowen’s disease.
  • Immunosuppression. People with suppressed immune systems, either from medications or other medical problems, are at higher risk of Bowen’s disease.
  • Arsenic exposure. Many years ago arsenic was used as an ingredient in medicines and agriculture to treat various conditions. In some cases this exposure led to the development of Bowen’s disease many years later.
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection. When Bowen’s disease develops on the lining of the mouth, genital or anal areas there is often a pre-existing wart/virus infection in the area.
  • Ionising radiation exposure.
  • Some rare genetic disorders.

Treatment options include cryosurgery, curettage, photodynamic therapy, medicated ointments and surgery.