Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer

This information is useful for adults
Dr. Suozzi examines a patient.

Dermatologic surgeon Kathleen Suozzi, MD, is specially trained in performing Mohs micrographic surgery to treat skin cancer.

Credit: Robert A. Lisak

Why Yale Medicine?
  • We have performed more than 100,000 Mohs surgeries to remove skin cancer.
  • Our dermatologists achieve a success rate in curing skin cancer using Mohs surgery.
  • We use advanced surgical and laser techniques to diagnose and treat skin diseases.

Mohs micrographic surgery has been a game-changer in treating skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

In this procedure, the cancer is removed layer by layer, and the tissue is examined under a microscope after each step, so the dermatologist can confirm that all of the cancer cells have been eliminated. It maximizes the chances of removing all of the abnormal cells while still preserving as much of the normal skin tissue as possible. 

Cure rates for skin cancer using Mohs surgery can reach up to 98 percent and 99 percent, and the chances of lasting, disfiguring scars are minimal. Yale Medicine dermatologic surgeons have specialized expertise in performing Mohs surgery.

“Mohs surgery is based on the notion that normal pathology specimens, cut like a bread loaf, evaluate only about 3 percent of the total surface area of the margins of the cancer,” says David J. Leffell, MD, a Yale Medicine dermatologist and section chief of Dermatologic Surgery. “By contrast, the Mohs technique allows evaluation of the complete surface area.” This is important, Dr. Leffell says, because many basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers grow with microscopic fingerlike projections or roots can be missed with traditional excision and examination of the tissue (another technique to treat basal and squamous cell carcinomas). 

As part of the Mohs technique, the dermatologist not only removes the cancer from the skin but also “maps it out” with special colored inks. The dermatologist then evaluates it under a standard light microscope. Dermatologists must be specially trained to perform Mohs surgery, and it is performed in the doctor's office in just a few hours.

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