Research Article| Volume 61, ISSUE 1, P94-100, January 2023

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Machine learning methods applied to audit of surgical margins after curative surgery for facial (non-melanoma) skin cancer

Published:November 30, 2022DOI:


      We aimed to build a model to predict positive margin status after curative excision of facial non-melanoma skin cancer based on known risk factors that contribute to the complexity of the case mix. A pathology output of consecutive histology reports was requested from three oral and maxillofacial units in the south east of England. The dependent variable was a deep margin with peripheral margin clearance at a 0.5 mm threshold. A total of 3354 cases were analysed. Positivity of either the peripheral or deep margin for both squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) was 15.4% at Unit 1, 21.1% at Unit 2, and 15.4% at Unit 3. Predictive models accounting for patient and tumour factors were developed using automated machine learning methods. The champion models demonstrated good discrimination for predicting margin status after excision of BCCs (AUROC = 0.67) and SCCs (AUROC = 0.71). We demonstrate that rates of positive excision margins of facial non-melanoma skin cancer (fNMSC), when adjusted by the risk prediction model, can be used to compare unit performance fairly once variations in tumour factors and patient factors are accounted for.


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