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Scaly lesion on forearm

A 65-year-old woman presented to her primary care office with a scaly lesion on her left forearm that first appeared 8 months prior. Initially, the lesion grew quickly. However, it had not increased in size over the previous 2 months. A dermoscopic examination of the lesion revealed scale over an erythematous base with scattered punctations.

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Scaly lesion on forearm

The suspicion raised by the dermoscopy results led to a shave biopsy, which confirmed the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in situ, also known as Bowen disease.

Bowen disease typically manifests as a scaly erythematous patch, often on sun-exposed skin. If untreated, these lesions have the potential to develop into invasive SCCs. Generally, the lesions are preceded by the formation of actinic keratosis (AK). In a 2009 trial performed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 65% of SCCs were found to have previously been diagnosed as AK lesions.1

The selection of treatments includes excision, electrodessication and curettage, cryotherapy, and topical options such as fluorouracil bid for 4 weeks or imiquimod qd for 9 weeks.

After the physician outlined the treatment options, this patient opted for an elliptical excision. At the patient’s next follow-up appointment, she was found to have multiple AKs on her face; they were treated with cryotherapy. Patients with a diagnosis of precancerous or cancerous skin lesions are at high risk for additional AKs and skin cancer, so they should be counseled regarding the use of sun protective measures and the importance of annual screening for new lesions.

Image courtesy of Carlos Cano, MD, and text courtesy of Carlos Cano, MD, and Daniel Stulberg, MD, FAAFP, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque.

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