The Role of Embryologic Fusion Planes in the Invasiveness and Recurrence of Basal Cell Carcinoma: A Classic Mix-Up of Causation and Correlation

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The facial embryologic fusion planes as regions of mesenchymal and ectodermal fusion of the primordial facial processes during embryological development have been suggested to influence the spread, invasiveness, pathogenesis, and recurrence of cutaneous carcinoma. This study sought to establish whether basal cell carcinoma (BCC) originating in embryologic fusion planes has a greater propensity for earlier depth of invasion, leading to an increased rate of lesion recurrence.


Facial BCCs excised in a single surgeon practice over 2 years were allocated into 2 anatomic domains according to their correlation with embryologic fusion planes. Lesion depth of invasion, surface area, and margins of excision were analyzed in conjunction with recurrence data over the following 70–80 months.


Of the 331 lesions examined, 70 were located in embryologic fusion planes. No difference was found in the mean surface area and depth of invasion for lesions located in the 2 domains (P > 0.05). Ten lesion recurrences were identified, none of which were located in embryologic fusion planes. Recurrent lesions were excised with a significantly greater percentage of close and incomplete excision margins (P < 0.05).


BCC arising in embryologic fusion planes are not more invasive or at greater risk of recurrence. Excision margins seem to have the greatest influence on lesion recurrence. Because of the paucity of superfluous tissue and the cosmetic and functionally sensitive nature of these areas of embryologic fusion, specialist treatment of these lesions is recommended to ensure that adequacy of excision is not neglected at the cost of ease of closure and cosmesis.

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