Conference Coverage

Mohs underutilized for melanoma of head and neck



– Contemporary national guidelines undervalue the benefits of Mohs micrographic surgery for patients with melanoma of the head and neck, William C. Fix asserted at the annual meeting of the American College of Mohs Surgery.

Prevalence of high-risk characteristics for local recurrence

Mr. Fix, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, presented a single-center retrospective study of 13,644 cases of head and neck skin cancer treated with Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) for margin control. The cohort included 1,065 melanomas in situ, 410 invasive melanomas, more than 8,700 basal cell carcinomas, and 3,343 squamous cell carcinomas.

Mr. Fix and his coinvestigators undertook this observational study because they identified a gap in current guidelines for treatment of skin cancers of the head and neck. For example, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends margin control at the time of primary surgery for BCCs and SCCs deemed at high risk for local recurrence and defines what those high-risk features are. For melanomas, however, the guidelines recommend wide local excision, even though that approach has roughly a 10% recurrence rate, compared with less than 1% for MMS.

Moreover, the 2012 appropriate use criteria for MMS put forth by the American Academy of Dermatology in concert with several other medical societies are unclear about invasive melanoma. As a result of this lack of guidance, the use of margin control in primary surgery for melanoma is applied in less than 4% of cases, according to Mr. Fix.

The University of Pennsylvania data he presented showed that melanomas of the head and neck were significantly more likely to be large in size, to be poorly defined, and to have other high-risk features for local recurrence than were the BCCs and SCCs. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis controlling for high-risk characteristics, melanomas were independently associated with a twofold increased likelihood of requiring flap reconstruction compared with BCCs and SCCs of the head and neck.

“We’ve shown that melanomas have high-risk features for local recurrence, possibly to a greater extent than BCCs and SCCs. These features help us triage resource use for BCC and SCC. Could these same features help us make decisions for melanomas?” he asked rhetorically.

Mr. Fix reported having no financial conflicts of interest regarding his study, which was conducted free of commercial support.

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