Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.
Your Location is set to Change My Location
Cone Health wants to help you get well and stay well. This section provides tools and information to achieve good health and maintain your well-being.
Learn what community resources are available to help you get well and stay well.
View health and wellness news you can use from Cone Health providers on
View Advanced Search OptionsView All Doctors
View All Locations
Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Laser Surgery for Skin Cancer
Laser surgery uses a wavelength of light that is focused in a narrow beam. This high-intensity light is used to shrink or destroy skin cancers or pre-cancers (actinic keratosis). With lasers, there is usually less bleeding, swelling, and scarring. Healing is quicker, and you are less likely to get an infection.
Several different types of lasers are used to treat skin cancers, including the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser.
The wound will be painful for a few days after laser surgery. Healing usually occurs in 2 to 4 weeks.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for caring for your wound.
Laser surgery may be used to treat an actinic keratosis, and in rare cases, low-risk basal cell carcinoma.
Laser surgery is an effective treatment for actinic keratosis.footnote 1
If laser surgery is used to treat basal cell skin carcinomas, it should only be used for low-risk cancers.footnote 2 While laser surgery may work well for these types of cancer, it may not remove all of the cancer and prevent it from coming back.
There is a slight risk of infection associated with laser surgery. Be sure to call your doctor if you have any of these signs of infection:
Laser surgery usually isn't used for basal cell carcinoma. With laser surgery, it isn't possible to make sure all the cancer cells are gone. Other types of surgery, such as excision or Mohs, remove tissue and can check to make sure all the cancer is gone.
Duncan KO, et al. (2012). Epithelial precancerous lesions. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1261–1283. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Vishal M, et al. (2010). Non-melanoma skin cancer. Lancet, 375: 673–685.
Current as ofMarch 27, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Current as of:
March 27, 2018
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Subscribe to our Wellness Matters e-newsletter, a monthly snapshot of the some of great wellness content from Cone Health providers.