Reflectance confocal microscopy of facial neoplasms: Follicular involvement as a clue to diagnosis

Neda Shahriari, Jane M. Grant-Kels*, Harold Rabinovitz, Margaret Oliviero, Alon Scope

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Facial skin is characterized by high density of follicles. Facial neoplasms may present overlapping clinical and dermoscopic findings. Our goal was to evaluate and compare, via reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM), follicular involvement in facial neoplasms. Methods: We retrospectively searched our image database, between January 2008 and December 2020, for all facial lesions with (1) a standardized set of clinical, dermoscopic, and RCM images, and (2) a biopsy-proven diagnosis of lentigo maligna/lentigo maligna melanoma (LM/LMM, n = 39), basal cell carcinoma (BCC, n = 51), squamous cell carcinoma in situ (SCCIS, n = 5), actinic keratosis (AK, n = 11), and lichen-planus-like keratosis (LPLK, n = 18). Two readers jointly evaluated the RCM images for a set of predefined features of follicular involvement. Results: Diffuse obliteration of follicles was frequent in BCC (88%), while follicular infiltration by refractile dendritic cells and/or by bright round nucleated cells was common in melanoma (90% and 44%, respectively). Extension of atypical keratinocytes down follicles was more prominent among SCCIS than AK (80% vs. 45%, p = 0.01). In most LPLK (89%), there was follicular sparing. Conclusions: Evaluation of RCM criteria centering on the follicles can be useful in the differential diagnosis between common facial neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-184
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cutaneous Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • AK
  • BCC
  • LPLK
  • SCC
  • clinicopathology correlation
  • dermoscopy
  • facial neoplasms
  • hair follicle
  • melanoma
  • reflectance confocal microscopy


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