Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Skin: Bowenoid in situ carcinoma

Synonym(s): BISC; Multicentric squamous cell carcinoma in situ; Feline Bowen's disease

Contributor(s): Irene Rochlitz, David Scarff


  • CauseFelis catus papillomavirus type 2.
  • While this papillomavirus commonly infects cats, Bowenoid in situ carcinomas are thought to be rare.
  • Viral plaques and Bowenoid in situ carcinomas probably represent a continuum depending on the presence or absence of dysplasia within the sample.
  • Signs: multiple, irregular, raised, keratinized or ulcerated up to 3 cm diameter skin lesions.
  • Disease usually in middle-aged to older cats.
  • Lesions can develop in pigmented or non-pigmented skin.
  • Diagnosis: histopathology possibly with immunohistochemistry or molecular diagnostics.
  • Treatment: surgical excision if necessary.
  • Cryotherapy may also be appropriate as lesion superficial.
  • Some evidence that imiquimod cream may be beneficial, although no controlled studies.
  • Prognosis: some lesions will remain stable for a long period of time without causing significant illness in the cat. However, up to 15% of Bowenoid in situ carcinomas may progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Bowenoidin situcarcinomas can also become extensive necessitating euthanasia due to repeated skin infections.



  • Felis catus papillomavirus type 2.
  • This virus is detectible on the skin of a high proportion of cats.
  • Therefore, host factors are more important than the presence of the papillomavirus in determining which cats will develop disease.

Predisposing factors


  • Immunosuppression was initially though to play a significant role in disease development.
  • More recent studies have failed to find a strong association between detectible immunosuppressive disease and the development of Bowenoid in situ carcinoma plaques in cats.


  • The causative papillomavirus infects basal cells early in life and cats probably remain infected throughout life.
  • The infection remains asymptomatic in most cats.
  • In a small proportion of cats, the host is unable to maintain a low rate of viral replication.
  • The increased replication results in the development of a visible lesion.
  • As the lesion becomes bigger, dysplasia starts to develop within the cells.
  • The presence of dysplasia suggests pre-neoplastic change and results in a diagnosis of Bowenoid in situ carcinoma.
  • Penetration of the basement membrane by the cells indicates a true neoplasm and prompts a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Infection is probably early in life with a very long latency.
  • The duration of disease is extremely variable and unpredictable. Some Bowenoid in situ carcinomas stabilize and remain unchanged over many years while some cats develop many rapidly growing lesions that progress to squamous cell carcinoma.


  • Cats are frequently asymptomatically infected with Felis catus papillomavirus type 2.
  • Whether or not a cat will develop disease is primarily dependent on host factors.
  • However, the factors in the host that cause disease are currently poorly understood.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Munday J S (2014) Papillomaviruses in felids. Vet J 199 (3), 340-347 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Aberdein D (2012) Loss of retinoblastoma protein, but not p53, is associated with the presence of papillomaviral DNA in feline viral plaques, Bowenoid in situ carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas. Vet Pathol 49 (3), 538-545 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, French A F, Peters-Kennedy J et al (2011) Increased p16CDKN2A protein within feline cutaneous viral plaques, bowenoid in situ carcinomas, and a subset of invasive squamous cell carcinomas. Vet Pathol 48 (2), 460-465 PubMed.
  • Munday J S & Peters-Kennedy J (2010) Consistent detection of Felis domesticus papillomavirus 2 DNA sequences within feline viral plaques. J Vet Diagn Invest 22 (6), 946-949 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Kiupel M (2010) Papillomavirus-associated cutaneous neoplasia in mammals. Vet Pathol 47 (2), 254-264 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Witham A I (2010) Frequent detection of papillomavirus DNA in clinically normal skin of cats infected and noninfected with feline immunodeficiency virus. Vet Dermatol 21 (3), 307-310 PubMed.
  • Lange C E, Tobler K, Markau T et al (2009) Sequence and classification of FdPV2, a papillomavirus isolated from feline Bowenoid in situ carcinomas. Vet Microbiol 137 (1-2), 60-65 PubMed.
  • Gill V L, Bergman P J, Baer K E et al (2008) Use of imiquimod 5% cream (Aldara) in cats with multicentric squamous cell carcinoma in situ: 12 cases (2002-2005). Vet Comp Oncol (1), 55-64 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Willis K A, Kiupel M et al (2008) Amplification of three different papillomaviral DNA sequences from a cat with viral plaques. Vet Dermatol 19 (6), 400-404 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Kiupel M, French A F et al (2007) Detection of papilomaviral sequences in feline Bowenoid in situ carcinoma using consensus primers. Vet Dermatol 18 (4), 241-245 PubMed.
  • Wilhelm S, Degorce-Rubiales F, Godson D et al (2006) Clinical, histological and immunohistochemical study of feline viral plaques and bowenoid in situ carcinomas. Vet Dermatol 17 (6), 424-431 PubMed.
  • Baer K E, Helton K (1993) Multicentric SCC in situ resembling Bowen's disease in cats. Veterinary Pathology 30 (6), 535-543 PubMed.
  • Egberink H F, Berrocal A, Bax H A et al (1992) Papillomavirus associated skin lesions in a cat seropositibe for feline immunodeficiency virus. Vet Microbiol 31 (2-3), 117-125 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Gross T L, Ihrke P J, Walder E J (2005) Skin diseases of the dog and cat: clinical and histologic diagnosis. 2nd edn. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.