The significance of tumor persistence after incomplete excision of basal cell carcinoma

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Carcinoma, Basal Cell; Humans; Neoplasm Recurrence, Local; Neoplasm, Residual; Reoperation; Retrospective Studies; Risk Factors; Skin Neoplasms


Dermatology | Neoplasms | Skin and Connective Tissue Diseases


BACKGROUND: Physicians inevitably receive a pathology report after excision of a basal cell carcinoma that indicates that it is incompletely excised. The physician and patient are then left with the dilemma of whether immediate re-excision or close clinical follow-up is indicated.

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to identify characteristics of incompletely excised basal cell carcinomas that are at low risk for recurrence.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the charts and pathology slides of all incompletely excised basal cell carcinomas from 1991 to 1994 in a university hospital tumor registry.

RESULTS: Incompletely excised basal cell carcinomas of superficial or nodular subtype, less than 1 cm in diameter, located anywhere except the nose or ears, with less than 4% marginal involvement on the initial inadequate excision had no evidence of tumor persistence.

CONCLUSION: When physicians receive a pathology report indicating the incomplete excision of a basal cell carcinoma, they face the dilemma of further management. The majority of patients should undergo immediate re-excision or Mohs micrographic surgery because tumor persistence was found in 28% of cases. Occasionally, for a small group of select patients, close clinical follow-up may be indicated if the risk of recurrence is very low.


Citation: Berlin J, Katz KH, Helm KF, Maloney ME. The significance of tumor persistence after incomplete excision of basal cell carcinoma. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Apr;46(4):549-53. doi:10.1067/mjd.2002.117733

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed