Most of us enjoy the sunshine, and due to our growing awareness about the potential price of tanning, we tend to protect ourselves using sunscreen. However, UV radiation poses a risk, and at present, 1 in 5 Americans are getting skin cancer.
There are a number of types of skin cancer, and it is right to be concerned because they can be fatal, although most patients become fully cured. Bowen's Disease, also called squamous cell carcinoma in situ, is one of these skin cancers. Most common in fair skinned women, it can suddenly pop up years after having regular sun exposure, hence its prevalence amongst those aged between 70 and 80.
Bowenoid papulosis is the name given to Bowen's Disease when it appears on the groin. This is caused by the HPV virus. Of course, having darker skin or being of the male gender do not eliminate your risk of contracting Bowen's, and there are other causal factors, immunosuppression from post-transplant drugs and AIDS being another major one.
A concern is that Bowen's often does not look like the mole shaped skin cancers we are told to look out for. It typically manifests as a scaly patch on the skin, usually reddish in colour, or more brown if it is around the groin. The skin may be sore and be prone to bleeding and forming scabs, but do not assume that you should ignore it if this is not the case. Although the patch is made of cancer cells, is easy to confuse for eczema or psoriasis, and despite Bowen's being generally non-fatal, it is important to promptly check unusual skin growths.
Bowen's can stay as it is for years before slowly spreading across the skin's surface, although like all illnesses, it varies from person to person, and may be faster spreading in some people. It is unlikely to cause death.
The crucial thing is to get that professional diagnosis. Like all cancers, Bowen's can become fatal if left undiagnosed. This is why if you notice any sudden appearances of allergy-like patches on your or an elderly person's skin, you must make an appointment with a medical practitioner.
In most cases, this will be a minor complaint, but it is important to get the diagnosis so that if Bowen's disease has occurred it is not missed, and is treated while it is safe and easy to do so.
If you or someone you know does get diagnosed with Bowen's disease then don't worry. For a start, it is far less serious than many other skin cancers, and now that you've got your diagnosis, it is easy to treat, meaning that no lives will be at stake as a result.
Treatments are typically safe and easier to manage than with most cancers. The location, size and thickness of skin patches will be carefully considered by a dermatologist, and you will be offered the best of a number of options.
Freezing off the affected cells, chemotherapy creams and laser treatments are some less invasive methods of removal, although minor surgery will be offered if needed. Typically there will be some bleeding and discomfort for a few weeks following the chosen procedure, but in the long term, this is worth being cancer free.
It is understandable that you and friends and relatives would be concerned about potential fatalities as a result of Bowen's disease, but you can rest assured that once you've had a treatment, your body will quickly return to normal. Typically, the cancer will be cured and won't come back.
Unusual skin growths and markings are worrying and yes, you should always get your doctor to examine these. However, fear of cancer should not stop you from enjoying the sunshine after using plenty of protective sunscreen. Alternatively, opt for a spray tan if you want an instant, healthy glow without all the risks. No matter what choices you make, you can live free from the concern that Bowen's disease is fatal or even dangerous for yourself, or for any elderly friends and relatives who may be more prone to contracting this rare condition.