A woman in Australia has to undergo treatment every year for her rare skin cancer that keeps coming back.

Melissa Lewis has been on annual skin cancer treatment for more than a decade to prevent her condition from progressing to aggressive cancer. The 48-year-old was diagnosed with Bowen's disease, a very early form of skin cancer, around 10 years ago.

Ever since her diagnosis, Lewis undergoes chemotherapy, and photodynamic therapy--a treatment that involves a light source to destroy the abnormal cells, which leaves her skin with a pockmarked look.

Bowen's disease affects the outermost layer of the skin called the squamous cells and is also known as squamous cell carcinoma in situ. The condition can cause slow-growing lesions to develop on the skin that may appear as red-brown patches or dry, scaly plaques.

In some cases, the patches become itchy, painful and can bleed. A person is advised to see a dermatologist immediately if they notice a hard skin lesion or if a flesh-colored nodule appears which is very tender to the touch or bleed, as it can indicate cancer.

The exact cause of Bowen's disease is not known. However, long-term exposure to the Sun, especially in people with fair skin, can increase the risk. It is also common in people who have a weak immune system or patients with suppressed immune systems after organ transplant.

Previous exposure to radiotherapy is also known to increase the chances of Bowen's disease. Studies have also shown that people who have cutaneous human papillomavirus infection are at risk of developing Bowen disease.

Although Bowen's disease is treatable, if left undiagnosed and untreated, it can slowly progress into a different type of skin cancer called squamous cell skin cancer.

"When they said I have Bowen's disease I thought that was it. When I looked it up I was like, 'Oh my god, I am never going to be free'. It is something I have to keep on top of. I have treatment once a year. I hate it, it is really stressful as I know my skin will hurt," Lewis said.

Lewis now raises awareness about Bowen's disease and warns others about the harmful effects of sun exposure. "I look at my kids when I have had the treatment and they find it hard to look at me. I tell them that this is why you put sunscreen on, this is why you are careful," she added.

Sunscreens could help prevent sunburn, help avoid premature aging and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Pixabay