Hypothesis The best therapeutic approach to the involved or proximal surgical margins has not been defined yet; surgical margins status can influence the local relapse of disease in breast carcinoma, but the impact on overall survival has not been clearly demonstrated. Purpose of this work is to find in the available literature further evidence to guide the therapeutic behaviour in patients with close margins by invasive carcinoma. Design Review of the currently available literature on the evaluation of surgical margins in breast conserving surgery; influence of margin involvement by invasive component or intraductal component. Patients or other participants Literature research by PubMed on the topics of breast carcinoma, conservative surgery and margin definition and status; therapeutic approach to involved margins. Main outcome measure We reviewed the available literature focusing our attention to the definition of clear surgical margins and to the value of the close proximity of margins in relation to the local control of disease and the best therapeutic management of different situations. Results Further evidence is needed on large numbers of patients to understand how to evaluate surgical margins in invasive breast carcinoma. Conclusions There is no consensus on the definition of "clear surgical margins", and the ideal approach to the close proximity of margins has not been defined. It is not sure whether a new surgical procedure is really needed in every case of close proximity of tumor cells to the margins. Radiation therapy could be a good option in the management of these cases, but further evidence is needed to establish the real impact of clear surgical margins on local control of disease and, furthermore, on survival.