• basal cell carcinoma;
  • margins;
  • relapse;
  • surgical treatment


Background Incomplete resection of a basal cell carcinoma does not necessarily imply tumour recurrence.

Objective The purpose of our study was to determine the clinical features most often associated with positive surgical margins and to establish whether positive margins effectively imply tumour recurrence.

Methods We did a retrospective evaluation of 273 basal cell carcinomas in a total of 248 subjects. For each case, data regarding tumour location, sex, histological type and the presence or absence of affected surgical margins were collected. Follow-up was available in 151 cases.

Results Positive margins were most often observed in facial lesions, particularly in the nasal and perioral areas, and for morphoeic histological types. Tumours with margin involvement exhibited a higher recurrence rate (26%) than those with free margins (14%) over a 5-year follow-up period.

Conclusions Individualized management, with special considerations depending on tumour location and histological type, is needed to treat basal cell carcinomas and cases with affected margins. Re-excision, preferably with Mohs’ surgery, is advised in the latter as recurrences are much more complicated to treat. Furthermore, all cases need adequate follow-up, even in cases with unaffected surgical margins.