What are the contraindications for radiation therapy to treat basal cell carcinoma (BCC)?

Updated: Mar 02, 2020
  • Author: Robert S Bader, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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RT is contraindicated in young patients because of the high risk of radiodermatitis and scars; in lesions on the trunk and extremities; and in delayed cancer recurrence (eg, especially in patients previously treated with radiation). RT requires multiple visits. Treatment results in radiation damage and, therefore, should be reserved for older patients. RT is less effective for nonfacial tumors.

RT also is contraindicated in patients with connective tissue diseases or genetic conditions predisposing to skin cancer (eg, xeroderma pigmentosum, epidermodysplasia verruciformis, and basal cell nevus syndrome.) This histologic type in conjunction with RT may induce more tumors in the treated area. Radiation adverse effects include dermatitis, keratinization of the conjunctiva, and chronic keratitis.

Cosmetic results are generally good to excellent, with a small amount of hypopigmentation or telangiectasia in the treatment port. This therapy can be less disfiguring than surgical excision. Nevertheless, long-term results after several years can be deforming. Another disadvantage of this technique is that surgical margins cannot be examined. Tumors recurring in previously radiated sites tend to be aggressive and difficult to treat and reconstruct. RT remains an important, feasible option in selected patients with BCC.

The NCCN guideline supports RT for patients whose condition is appropriate, with the reservation that in order to achieve its benefits (high cure rates and good comesis), it must be administered carefully and with attention to algorithm details by well-trained specialists. Training and proper support are particularly essential to the use of intensity modulated RT as primary treatment. Medical physicists must provide the necessary support and training in this new technology. [7]

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