Safety margin: an old and relative concept

Safety margin and surgical margin are terms frequently used as synonyms, although they have different meanings. Safety margin is pre-determined and is a part of the surgical planning. Surgical margin is subsequently verified by the pathologist when he or she examines the surgical piece. There is no consensus in the literature regarding the extension of the safety margin, which is based on a series of variables which are not always easy to analyze. On the other hand, the microscopically controlled surgery does not use the concept of safety margin and is the most rational treatment of skin cancer. This article discusses the determinant factors of safety margin and surgical margin, from a both clinical and laboratorial point of view, making a parallel with microscopically controlled surgeries and raising some important reflections about the relativity of the concept of safety margin.

Mohs surgery; Skin neoplasms; Pathology, surgical; Reoperation

Sociedade Brasileira de Dermatologia Av. Rio Branco, 39 18. and., 20090-003 Rio de Janeiro RJ, Tel./Fax: +55 21 2253-6747 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil