Margin Status Predicts Outcome in Patients with Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Scalp: The Westmead Hospital Experience

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Rajith Mendis
Gary Morgan
Muzib Abdul-Razak
Eva Wong
Julie Howle
Val Gebski
Michael Veness


Head and neck, Scalp, Squamous cell carcinoma, Margin status, Radiotherapy


Background/Objectives: An involved or close resection margin in the setting of cutaneous SCC (cSCC) is associated with the risk of developing recurrence. The scalp poses unique anatomical challenges when obtaining adequate resection margins and further treatment may be required. We aimed to investigate the risk of recurrence in patients with scalp cSCCs and the role of adjuvant radiotherapy.

Methods: Eligible patients with cSCC of the scalp treated with curative intent at Westmead hospital, Sydney, were identified and patient, tumor and treatment factors analyzed. Patients were categorized based on margin status and analyzed in terms of treatment delivered, local recurrence and survival.

Results: In total, 114 patients with a median age of 70 years with the majority (81%) male, were identified with a median follow up of 5.6 years. Following surgery, 52 patients (46%) had clear margins, 62 (54%) had close (≤2mm) or involved margins, with a significant difference in the 5-year disease specific mortality of 20% and 35%, respectively (p=0.05). Twenty-eight patients (25%) underwent surgery and adjuvant radiotherapy, most with a close/involved margin. There was no significant difference in the risk of developing local recurrence between the group of patients in whom a clear margin was obtained and the group in whom the margin was close/involved (p=0.23).

Conclusion: Margin status had a significant impact on disease specific mortality, but was not associated with the risk of developing local recurrence. The addition of adjuvant radiotherapy in select high-risk patients may improve outcome although this was not demonstrated in our study.


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