Purpose: There is no consensus on what constitutes adequate negative margins in breast-conserving therapy (BCT). We systematically review the evidence on surgical margins in BCT for invasive breast cancer to support the development of clinical guidelines.
Methods: Study-level meta-analysis of studies reporting local recurrence (LR) data relative to final microscopic margin status and the threshold distance for negative margins. LR proportion was modeled using random-effects logistic meta-regression.
Results: Based on 33 studies (LR in 1,506 of 28,162), the odds of LR were associated with margin status [model 1: odds ratio (OR) 1.96 for positive/close vs negative; model 2: OR 1.74 for close vs. negative, 2.44 for positive vs. negative; (P < 0.001 both models)] but not with margin distance [model 1: >0 mm vs. 1 mm (referent) vs. 2 mm vs. 5 mm (P = 0.12); and model 2: 1 mm (referent) vs. 2 mm vs. 5 mm (P = 0.90)], adjusting for study median follow-up time. There was little to no statistical evidence that the odds of LR decreased as the distance for declaring negative margins increased, adjusting for follow-up time [model 1: 1 mm (OR 1.0, referent), 2 mm (OR 0.95), 5 mm (OR 0.65), P = 0.21 for trend; and model 2: 1 mm (OR 1.0, referent), 2 mm (OR 0.91), 5 mm (OR 0.77), P = 0.58 for trend]. Adjustment for covariates, such as use of endocrine therapy or median-year of recruitment, did not change the findings.
Conclusions: Meta-analysis confirms that negative margins reduce the odds of LR; however, increasing the distance for defining negative margins is not significantly associated with reduced odds of LR, allowing for follow-up time. Adoption of wider relative to narrower margin widths to declare negative margins is unlikely to have a substantial additional benefit for long-term local control in BCT.