DOI: 10.1097/dss.0000000000003926 ISSN:

From Centimeters to Millimeters: The Evolution of the Surgical Margins for Melanoma—A Historical Review

Amanda Rosenthal, Margit Juhasz, Gary Lask, Nima Gharavi
  • Dermatology
  • General Medicine
  • Surgery


With an improved understanding of tumor biology and behavior, the recommended margins for the surgical treatment of melanoma have evolved.


We describe the progression of these surgical margins, detailing the historical basis for the 5-cm margin and transitioning to current practice, in which Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) with immunohistochemistry (IHC) has become increasingly used.


We searched PubMed and Google Scholar for articles published between January 2019 and April 2023 describing the use of MMS for melanoma in situ (MIS) and invasive melanomas.


We identified 12 articles focusing on the use of MMS for MIS and invasive melanomas: 3 meta-analyses and 9 retrospective studies. Two retrospective analyses documented no differences in overall survival between MMS and wide local excision (WLE) and 2 found improved overall survival for MMS compared with WLE. Three retrospective analyses and 3 meta-analyses demonstrated low recurrence rates after the use of MMS for both MIS and invasive melanomas. Finally, 2 retrospective studies documented the success of MMS with IHC using MART-1.


Over the past century, the surgical margins for the treatment of melanoma have undergone a marked transformation. MMS with IHC has become increasingly popular given its ability to reliably produce superior clinical outcomes.

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