High-Risk Cutaneous Squamous Cell Cancer of the Head and Neck: Risk Factors for Recurrence and Impact of Adjuvant Treatment

Samuel J. Trosman, Angela Zhu, Elizabeth A. Nicolli, Jason M. Leibowitz, Zoukaa B. Sargi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: The behavior of advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNcSCC) remains poorly understood, with highly variable risk factors and a paucity of data for adjuvant treatment. The objective of our study was to review the oncologic outcomes of patients with high-risk HNcSCC treated with surgery and to identify risk factors for treatment failure. Study Design: Retrospective cohort study. Methods: Retrospective review of patients treated for HNcSCC with definitive surgery involving at least parotidectomy and neck dissection at a tertiary care academic center from 2011 to 2017 was conducted. The primary outcome was disease-free survival (DFS). Results: One-hundred four patients with a median age of 68 years (range = 42–91 years) were reviewed. Twenty-one patients were treated with surgery alone, 45 patients underwent adjuvant radiotherapy (RT), and 38 patients underwent adjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT). The 2-year DFS for patients treated with surgery, surgery + RT, and surgery + CRT were 71%, 65%, and 58%, respectively, with no significant difference between the groups (P =.70). On multivariate analyses, tumor size (P =.006) and perineural invasion (PNI, P =.04) independently predicted recurrence. The addition of chemotherapy did not appear to improve DFS, neither for those patients with extranodal extension and/or positive margins (P =.93) nor for the entire cohort (P =.43). Conclusions: Advanced HNcSCC has a high recurrence rate despite adjuvant treatment. Tumor size >2 cm was a strong independent risk factor for recurrence. Out of the traditional mucosal HNcSCC risk factors, PNI was most strongly associated with worse DFS. There was no observed survival benefit to the addition of chemotherapy. Level of Evidence: 4. Laryngoscope, 131:E136–E143, 2021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E136-E143
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
  • adjuvant chemotherapy
  • extranodal extension
  • perineural invasion
  • tumor size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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