BACKGROUND: The Mohs technique for removal of cutaneous malignancies offers tissue-sparing benefits compared with other treatment methods. With wider acceptance and availability of Mohs surgery, referral patterns may be shifting toward the treatment of smaller, lower-risk tumors. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to examine whether referral patterns for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) at an academic Mohs surgery practice have shifted over recent years toward referral for smaller, lower risk tumors. METHODS: A retrospective longitudinal comparison of tumor characteristics was performed for BCCs treated at our institution from a recent year (2004) and a past year (1996). Statistical analyses were used to identify differences in tumor size, distribution by anatomic site, and primary versus recurrent status. RESULTS: Complete data were available for 603 BCCs treated in 1996 and 1,514 BCCs treated in 2004. A 24% decrease in preoperative tumor surface area was observed from 1996 (1.25 cm2) to 2004 (0.95 cm2). Tumors were twice as likely to be recurrent in 1996 (15.1%) than in 2004 (7.4%). There were no significant differences in the anatomic distribution of lesions in the years compared. CONCLUSIONS: Findings at our institution suggest that in recent years, referral patterns have shifted toward a preference for Mohs surgery for the treatment of smaller, primary BCCs. This may be a result of increased awareness by the dermatologic and medical community of the numerous advantages of Mohs surgery and a greater appreciation of its tissue-sparing properties, which may result in less complex and more successful aesthetic reconstructions.
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