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Melanoma of the face: the safety of narrow excision margins.

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  • 1Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital, South Africa.


Recent studies have shown that narrower excision margins may be safe, but the optimal or minimum margin for melanoma is unknown. Wide margins of excision are possible on the trunk and limbs, but functional and cosmetic constraints often limit the extent of excision on the face. A collaborative study from two continents (Cape Town, South Africa and Northwood, England) investigated the outcome of different excision margins of 106 patients with stage I melanoma of the face. The margin of excision was measured from the records of the pathological specimen. Thirty patients had margins of less than 1 cm, 64 had margins of between 1 and 2 cm, and 12 had margins greater than 2 cm. Primary apposition or flap closure was possible in 85 patients. Seven patients developed local recurrences and these were not influenced by the excision margin. This study supports the contention that the primary treatment of cutaneous melanoma on the face should be histologically confirmed complete excision, and that this can be achieved with margins of excision less than 1 cm. Local recurrence is not related to the margin of excision or to tumour thickness.

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