Background: Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma die of locoregional recurrence and those with basal cell carcinoma suffer cosmetic and functional changes from its treatment. Prognostic factors are based upon tumor characteristics and host factors. Flow cytometry can assist with prognostic characterization of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
Methods: Specimens from 40 sequential patients with head and neck nonmelanoma skin cancers were prospectively obtained at the time of surgery. The patients were followed for four years for local recurrence and metastasis to regional lymph nodes. Samples were prepared from frozen specimens using a modification of the Vindelov procedure.
Results: DNA aneuploidy or tetraploidy and histology of well differentiated squamous cell carcinoma were significantly associated with metastasis to regional lymph nodes. Direct extension of tumor below the adipose tissue was associated with an S-phase greater than 4.1 and a proliferative fraction greater than 5.5. No tumors recurred at the site of surgical resection.
Conclusions: The measurement of DNA ploidy of well differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, and proliferative capacity or S-phase of both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas assists in predicting the biologic proclivity for locoregional invasion or metastasis of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Identification of aggressive tumors at the time of surgery may offer the opportunity for prevention of lethal metastasis by using adjunctive therapy.