Misclassification of Aggressive Basal Cell Carcinoma Subtypes and Implications for Management

Deborah Moon, Grant Randall, Shauna Higgins, Adam V. Sutton, Ashley Wysong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUNDManagement of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) varies by histopathologic subtype; however, biopsies may inadequately characterize them as nonaggressive, risking potential suboptimal treatment.OBJECTIVETo characterize the rate of undetected aggressive BCC subtypes by size, location, and histopathology type.MATERIALS AND METHODSRetrospective cohort study of 928 BCCs treated with Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS) at a tertiary academic institution from 2015 to 2017, comparing patient and tumor characteristics and histopathologic subtype on biopsy versus Mohs.RESULTSAmong the 825 BCCs with known subtypes on biopsy, 68% (561/825) were classified as nonaggressive, 28% (159/561) of which were subsequently found to have aggressive subtypes on MMS. Aggressive features were more often underrepresented in biopsy samples taken from Area H compared with Area M/L (odd ratio [OR] 2.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.73-4.08, p <.001) or those with nodular subtypes (OR 2.19, CI 1.08-4.45, p =.03). Of concern, these unsuspected aggressive BCCs required more Mohs stages for clearance (mean 2.37, SD 0.72, p <.001) compared with BCCs that remained nonaggressive on both biopsy and Mohs (mean 1.50, SD 0.75).CONCLUSIONGiven the high percentage of BCCs with unsuspected aggressive subtypes, higher clinical suspicion for undiagnosed high-risk BCCs should be given to nodular BCCs and to BCCs on Area H.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-598
Number of pages6
JournalDermatologic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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