Characteristics of non-melanoma skin cancers of the cutaneous perioral and vermilion lip treated by Mohs micrographic surgery

D Queen, T Knackstedt, M A Polacco, L K Collins, K Lee, F H Samie
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV 2019, 33 (2): 305-311

BACKGROUND: The lip and surrounding perioral region are susceptible to non-melanoma skin cancer, but the distribution of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma on the cutaneous and vermilion lips has not been fully elucidated.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the distribution of cutaneous and vermilion lip non-melanoma skin cancer and to better describe risk factors, anatomic location, treatment characteristics and oncologic outcomes.

METHODS: A retrospective comparative case series of patients undergoing Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) at a single academic centre for lip and perioral basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma was performed over a 5-year period. Demographics, medical comorbidities, surgical characteristics and recurrence status were extracted.

RESULTS: Forty-five vermilion and 116 cutaneous lip cancers were identified. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) was more common in the cutaneous perioral region, while squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was more common on the vermilion lip (P < 0.001). BCCs were more common on the upper vermilion lip and SCCs were more common on the lower vermilion lip (P < 0.001). Within the cutaneous perioral region, both BCCs and SCCs were more common on the upper perioral surface (P = 0.002). Male gender was associated with lower lip SCC (P = 0.015). Smoking, immunosuppression, anticoagulant use and hydrochlorothiazide use were not associated with cancer type or location. Recurrences were rare, but more common in vermilion lip cancers (6.6%) compared to perioral cutaneous cancers (0.8%). Outcomes for all groups were similar; BCCs of the vermilion lip had significantly greater mean MMS stages (P < 0.001) as did SCCs (P = 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Basal cell carcinoma is more commonly encountered on the cutaneous lip, whereas SCC is more common on the vermilion lip. Within the vermilion lip, BCC favours the upper lip, while SCC favours the lower lip. Within the cutaneous perioral region, both BCC and SCC favour the upper cutaneous tissue. Early stage lip cancers are curable by Mohs micrographic surgery with rare recurrences.

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