Mohs & Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an epidemic in the United States, and more than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Overall, 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. Most diagnosed skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers, with about 80% being basal cell carcinomas and about 20% squamous cell carcinomas.

While anyone can get skin cancer, some individuals may be at greater risk. These include people with naturally lighter skin color, blonde or red hair, a family history or personal history of skin cancer, and who spend ample time in the sun or tanning beds. The UV rays produced by the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer, which is why making sun protection an everyday habit is crucial to lowering your skin cancer risk.

Skin cancer is highly curable when identified in its earliest stages. Screening by a dermatologist can identify these lesions when they are most curable and can be performed during an office visit without drawing any blood. Moles and other lesions can be evaluated with a dermatoscope, which magnifies pigmentary patterns. Much care is taken to assure patient comfort, educate patients about their skin and self-screening, and teach them how to protect themselves from further sun damage.

The physicians at UnionDerm have treated tens of thousands of skin cancers. Dr. Chwalek and Dr. Petukhova specialize in Mohs micrographic surgery, which offers the best cure and cosmetic results in the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers, and are nationally recognized as two of the top Mohs surgeons in the U.S. In addition, we have extensive experience in the post-operative treatment of any residual scars to achieve the best possible final result.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main categories of skin cancer, including the following:

 Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Individuals with fair skin are most likely to get this form of cancer, but those with darker skin tones are also susceptible. Basal cell carcinomas frequently appear as a pearly bump or a pink patch of skin and often develop slowly over the years. This form of skin cancer most commonly appears on the head, neck, and arms; however, it can form on any area of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Individuals with lighter skin tones are most susceptible, though it can also affect those with darker skin. Squamous cell carcinomas often look like a rough, red, scaly spot or an ulcerated bump that bleeds. It most often forms on sun-exposed areas, such as the ears, face, neck, arms, and chest. Squamous cell carcinoma can develop from a precancerous skin growth such as actinic keratosis (AK). While AK is not cancer, it can turn into cancer over time.


Melanoma skin cancers occur less frequently but are significantly more serious. Melanoma can arise by itself or from a pre-existing mole that becomes rapidly growing, itching, bleeding, or changing its color or surface. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for individuals with melanoma, as this form of skin cancer can potentially spread throughout the body.

The most effective way to detect melanoma is to check for the ABCDEs of melanoma. These symptoms include:

Asymmetrical: The lesion has an irregular shape.

Border: the border is jagged or irregular.

Color: The color is uneven or has changed.

Diameter: The mole or lesion is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

Evolving: The lesion has changed over the past few weeks or months.

Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Skin cancer is considered one of the easiest cancers to detect, as it is most often visible. You can develop skin cancer anywhere on your skin, even in areas that are not often exposed to the sun. To check for skin cancer on a regular basis, we recommend performing a self-exam regularly. This involves checking your skin from your scalp down to the bottoms of your feet.

Skin cancer may appear in many different ways, including:

  • A changing mole
  • A scaly patch of skin
  • Dome-shaped growth
  • Brown of black streak beneath a nail
  • A lesion that itches or bleeds
  • A sore that does not heal or returns

If you do detect a suspicious lesion on your skin, seek out the expertise of a board-certified dermatologist. Overall, it is recommended that individuals undergo an annual skin check by a professional to catch skin cancer in its early stages, as early detection is key for optimal results.

Treatment Options

At UnionDerm, we are proud to offer a selection of cutting-edge and proven skin cancer treatment options, including the following.

Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery, also called Mohs micrographic surgery, is considered the gold standard for treating many basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which occur in high risk areas for metasis and disability or disfigurement. This procedure is performed in stages, which allows for the highest cure rate while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. These stages include removing the thin sheet of cancerous tissue, which is then analyzed by the Mohs surgeon in our onsite laboratory. These steps are continued until all of the skin cancer has been removed. The surgeon will then close the wound for healing.


Standard surgical excision involves removing the suspicious lesion along with a border of healthy tissue. The incision is then closed with stitches. The removed tissue is sent to a laboratory where a pathologist will examine it to confirm that all cancer cells have been removed. If test results show that cancer cells are still present, additional excision may be required.


Electrocautery, also called curettage and electrodesiccation, involves removing the cancerous lesion and treating it with an electric needle to destroy any remaining cancer cells. This is often an effective option for those with superficial basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas that do not have any high-risk features.


If you are concerned with a suspicious-looking lesion or are seeking professional skin cancer treatment, contact UnionDerm today. We proudly offer two convenient locations in Manhattan: Union Square, Central Park; and a third in the Hamptons (Water Mill, NY).

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