Recent structural and biochemical studies have begun to illuminate how cells solve the problems of recognizing and removing damaged DNA bases. Bases damaged by environmental, chemical, or enzymatic mechanisms must be efficiently found within a large excess of undamaged DNA. Structural studies suggest that a rapid damage-scanning mechanism probes for both conformational deviations and local deformability of the DNA base stack. At susceptible lesions, enzyme-induced conformational changes lead to direct interactions with specific damaged bases. The diverse array of damaged DNA bases are processed through a two-stage pathway in which damage-specific enzymes recognize and remove the base lesion, creating a common abasic site intermediate that is processed by damage-general repair enzymes to restore the correct DNA sequence.