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Summertime Eye Protection: Prevent Eyelid Cancer With These Tips

Mamta V. Shah, MD
Mamta V. Shah, MD Photo Credit: CareMount Medical

The skin on your eyelid is the thinnest and most sensitive skin on your body. Almost 10% of skin cancer cases occur on the eyelid. This area of the body is easily damaged by sun exposure with more than half of eyelid cancers developing on the lower part of the eyelid. The most common type of eyelid cancer is basal cell carcinoma which can generally be removed with surgery. Less common types include squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

Risk factors for eyelid cancer include exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, fair skin or light-colored eyes, those ages 50 years and older, history of sunburns or previous skin cancer, and personal medical history.

Symptoms of eyelid cancer:

  • A bump that is smooth, shiny, pearly or waxy, or firm and red;
  • Swelling or thickening of the eyelid;
  • Broken skin on the eyelid that does not heal or that bleeds;
  • A rough and scaly red, brown or black patch;
  • Change in the appearance of the eyelid skin;
  • Chronic infection of the eyelid;
  • A stye that does not heal; and
  • Loss of eyelashes.

Eyelid cancer can be treated through Mohs microsurgery or frozen section control, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy, or cryotherapy. Plastic surgery to reconstruct the eyelid may also be an option after the cancerous lesions are removed.

Tips to prevent eyelid cancer:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun;
  • Wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB light (The bigger the sunglasses, the better!);
  • Use a broad spectrum moisturizer or sunscreen for the eyelid region, with an SPF of at least 30 or higher (even on cloudy days); and
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat with at least a 3-inch brim.

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice anything abnormal about your eyelid skin. Early detection is essential to finding the best treatment options and preventing future cancer.