MOHS 101

What Is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is a special type of surgery. It is used to cure skin cancer by cutting layers of the skin until all the cancer is gone. It is 99% effective at curing the most common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It is also used to treat some types of melanoma.

Who invented Mohs micrographic surgery?

Mohs surgery may also be called “Mohs micrographic surgery” or just “Mohs.” It is named after the man who invented the process, Dr. Frederic Mohs.

Dr. Frederic E. Mohs created a technique called “chemosurgery” where skin, including the cancer, was removed, examined under a microscope, and removed again until no cancer cells were found.
Dr. Mohs improved the technique, allowing it to be used on more areas of the body, shortening how long the procedure took, and making it more comfortable.
1 of every 5 dermatologists were using this technique when Dr. Perry Robins trained with Dr. Mohs and brought his learnings back to New York University (NYU).
Dr. Robins and Dr. Alfred W. Kopf founded the first dermatologic fellowship for chemosurgery at NYU to educate and train dermatologists from around the world on the procedure.
Dr. Robins started research on how a new procedure compared to the original chemosurgery.
Dr. Robins published results that showed a cure rate of around 97% for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, proving how well the newer procedure worked.
The procedure was officially named “Mohs micrographic surgery,” or “Mohs surgery” for short, at the annual meeting of the American College of Chemosurgery, which later changed its name to the American College of Mohs Surgery.
More than 2,300 surgeons in the US perform Mohs surgery, with more than 1,500 fellowship trained by the American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS).

Who Gets Mohs?

Before having or starting treatment for any medical problem, it is good to understand why your doctor has chosen that treatment. The same is true for Mohs surgery. While Mohs surgery is a common treatment for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers, it is still surgery. Be sure to talk with your treatment team to understand your skin cancer treatment options and why they feel Mohs surgery is the right choice.

While the cure rate varies, research shows that Mohs surgery cures about 97% of primary (first time) squamous cell skin cancers and 99% of first-time basal cell skin cancers. Doctors who prefer surgery to cure skin cancer use Mohs surgery when:

  • The skin cancer is in the basal or squamous cells of the skin
  • The skin cancer is on a part of the body where it is important to remove as little skin as possible, such as the scalp, face, hands, neck, feet, or shins
  • The cancer is on the same area as a scar
  • The cancer is large or deep into the skin
  • The immune system is weak

Learn more about the types of skin cancer Mohs treats.

See the types