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Bowen’s Disease

Squamous cell carcinoma in situ, often called Bowen’s disease, is a growth of cancerous cells that is confined to the outer layer of the skin.

It is not a serious condition, and its importance rests on the fact that, very occasionally, it can progress into an invasive skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. For this reason, dermatologists usually treat, or at least monitor, Bowen’s disease.

Most cases of Bowen’s disease develop as a result of long-term sun exposure, and it is more likely in those receiving long-term immunosuppression medication.

Areas affected include sun-exposed areas such as the face, scalp, neck, hands and lower legs.

Bowen’s disease treatment

Bowen’s disease dermatology therapies include:

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen or cryotherapy
  • Curettage
  • Excision
  • 5-fluorouracil cream

We provide all the dermatology treatment options above at Clinica London.


Cryotherapy involves the removal of some skin lesions by freezing them with liquid nitrogen in the clinic room. No special preparation is needed. We apply the cold liquid nitrogen directly onto the skin with a special spray gun.

Although you might feel slight local and temporary pain, cryotherapy does not normally need a local anaesthetic. The procedure only takes a matter of seconds. Depending on the nature of the lesion, more than one treatment may be necessary. This is usually repeated at regular intervals in the clinic. We will discuss this during your consultation.


Another treatment option we provide at Clinica London is curettage and cautery. Curettage involves surgical scraping of the area concerned, following application of local anaesthetic, and then using an electrical current to stop any bleeding. We carry this out in the procedure room. The sample is then sent to histopathology for detailed analysis.

Cream therapy

We can also use a cream therapy to treat the affected area. This can cause some reddening of the skin for the weeks that it is being applied.

Contact us for a Bowen’s disease consultation

During your consultation, we will discuss the various options available depending on the size, site and area involved.

A skin biopsy is often helpful in diagnosis. This involves injecting a local anaesthetic to the area and removing or sampling the area. We then send this to the histopathology laboratory for analysis. We would then bring you back to discuss all the results and what treatment you may need.

If you are considering treatment you can see our prices for treatment and consultation.

Read more about Squamous Cell Carcinoma treatment.

Dr Jennifer Crawley

Consultant Dermatologist
Children & Adults

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Dr Angela Tewari

Consultant Dermatologist
Children & Adults

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Frequently Asked Quesitons.

No, it is not usually very serious and it often grows slowly over months or years, there are several effective treatments available. However, Bowen’s disease is known to eventually develop into a type of skin cancer – squamous cell skin carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) if undiagnosed and untreated.

This is known to occur from 1 in 20 up to 1 in 30 people when left untreated. Squamous cell skin carcinoma is treatable, though is known to spread deeper into the body and can become very serious.

It is pre-invasive, meaning that it is only in the outermost layer of the epidermis (skin), it can spread along the surface of the skin and has been known, though rarely, to spread deeper. To avoid this you should seek diagnosis and then treatment.

Bowen’s Disease is a very early and relatively rare form of skin cancer, affected individuals will slowly develop a red and scaly patch on the skin, it is considered to be pre-cancerous and the risk of developing skin cancer is less than 10 percent.

The definite cause is still unclear but is quite strongly linked to UV ray exposure, by direct sunlight or sunbeds. People with light or fair skin are especially affected.

There is a 1 in 10 chance that Bowen’s Disease will come back after your treatment. Regular follows-ups, post-treatment are important, to monitor signs of return and provide further treatment if necessary.

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