Medline: 2646336

Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology 15(3): 315-328, 1989.

Long-term recurrence rates in previously untreated (primary) basal cell carcinoma: implications for patient follow-up.

Rowe DE, Carroll RJ, Day CL


We reviewed all studies (since 1947) reporting recurrence rates for treatment of primary (previously untreated) basal cell carcinomas using surgical excision, radiotherapy, cryotherapy, curettage and electrodesiccation, and Mohs micrographic surgery. Our findings indicate that recurrences following treatment of primary basal cell carcinoma appear later than is generally acknowledged in the literature. We found that less than one-third of all recurrences appear in the first year following treatment; only 50% appear within the first 2 years following treatment; and only 66%, or nearly two-thirds, appear within the first 3 years following treatment. A good rule of thumb is that the 10-year recurrence rate is double, or 2 times, that of the 2-year recurrence rate. Furthermore, 18% of recurrences appear between the fifth and tenth year following treatment. These results held true, irrespective of treatment modality examined. Seventy-two studies reporting short-term recurrence rates (follow-up less than 5 years) had a weighted average recurrence rate of 4.2%, whereas 34 long-term studies (follow-up of 5 years) had a weighted average recurrence rate of 8.7%, or more than 2 times the short-term rate. Five-year recurrence rates by treatment modality are as follows: Mohs micrographic surgery 1.0%, surgical excision 10.1%, curettage and electrodesiccation 7.7%, radiation therapy 8.7%, and cryosurgery 7.5%. We conclude that the reporting of recurrence rate data for basal cell carcinoma should be standardized using 5-year life table analysis, and even more important is our conclusion that lifetime follow-up is necessary after treatment of primary basal cell carcinoma in order to detect both recurrences and new primaries. (136 Refs)

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