Evaluation of cosmetic results of a randomized trial comparing surgery and radiotherapy in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma of the face

J. Y. Petit, M. F. Avril, A. Margulis, D. Chassagne, A. Gerbaulet, P. Duvillard, A. Auperin, M. Rietjens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Basal cell carcinoma is the most frequent cutaneous carcinoma, and it is characterized by its local spreading and an exceptional tendency to metastasize. Radical excision or destruction ensures the highest chance of cure. The most frequent site of this tumor is the face, where radical excision is limited by the proximity of essential anatomic structures. The main difficulty is to avoid mutilation and to provide good cosmetic results despite the vicinity of the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. Surgery and radiotherapy are known to provide similar chances of cure, but results concerning cosmetic sequelae are controversial, depending sometimes on the specialty of the physician in charge of the treatment. A randomized trial was performed at the Gustave-Roussy Institute to compare basal cell carcinomas of the face treated either by surgery or by radiotherapy. In summary, a significant advantage was observed in favor of surgery, as has been published elsewhere. Looking at the details of the cosmetic results, we analyzed the specific methodology of the cosmetic evaluation set up to eradicate the usual bias owing to subjective judgments. We looked also to the evolution of the cosmetic results with time. A panel of five judges performed repeated evaluations during the follow-up, and standardized photographs were taken at each visit and rated later by three nonmedical judges. In total, 174 patients were treated by surgery and 173 by radiotherapy; the choice of the treatment was allocated by randomization. Postoperative complications were higher in the radiotherapy group. The final cosmetic results after 4 years of follow-up were rated significantly better with surgery than with radiotherapy (good in 87 percent versus 69 percent according to the patient, 79 percent versus 40 percent according to the dermatologist, and respectively for each of the observers). Evolution of the ratings during the follow-up demonstrated an improvement of the cosmesis after surgery and stable or deteriorated results after radiotherapy. The same trend was observed regardless of the site of the tumor on the face, except for the nose, where the difference - still in favor of the surgery - was not significant. Concordance of all assessments in our study was the main guarantee of reliability of our methodology for cosmetic evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2544-2551
Number of pages8
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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