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    Interventions for non-metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: systematic review and pooled analysis of observational studies
    BMJ 2013;347:f6153


    To assess the effects of treatments for non-metastatic invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin using evidence from observational studies, given the paucity of evidence from randomised controlled trials.

    Systematic review of observational studies.

    Review methods

    Observational studies of interventions for primary, non-metastatic, invasive, SCC of the skin that reported recurrence during follow-up, quality of life, initial response to treatment, adverse events, cosmetic appearance, or death from disease. Studies were excluded if data for primary cutaneous SCC was not separable from other data. Data were extracted independently by two reviewers. Meta-analysis was performed where appropriate using a random effects model to estimate the pooled proportion of an event with 95% confidence intervals.

    118 publications were included, covering seven treatment modalities. Pooled estimates of recurrence of SCCs were lowest after cryotherapy (0.8% (95% confidence interval 0.1% to 2%)) and curettage and electrodesiccation (1.7% (0.5% to 3.4%)), but most treated SCCs were small, low risk lesions.
    After Mohs micrographic surgery, the pooled estimate of local recurrence during variable follow-up periods from 10 studies was 3.0% (2.2% to 3.9%), which was non-significantly lower than the pooled average local recurrence of 5.4% (2.5% to 9.1%) after standard surgical excision (12 studies), and 6.4% (3.0% to 11.0%) after external radiotherapy (7 studies). After an apparently successful initial response of SCCs to photodynamic therapy, pooled average recurrence of 26.4% (12.3% to 43.7%; 8 studies) was significantly higher than other treatments.
    Evidence was limited for laser treatment (1 study) and for topical and systemic treatments (mostly single case reports or small non-comparative series with limited follow-up).

    Many observational studies have looked at different treatment modalities for SCC, but the evidence base for the effectiveness of these interventions is poor.
    Comparison of outcomes after different treatments should be interpreted cautiously owing to biases inherent in the types of study included, and lack of direct comparisons to enable the estimation of relative treatment effect.

    Further evidence is needed to develop a prognostic model and stratify individualsat high risk of developing SCC, to improve the evidence base for this common cancer and to optimise clinical management.

    G Mohan.

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