Is Skin Cancer on Eyelids Common? - SightMD Skip to main content

October 06, 2022

By: Samuel Baharestani, MD

Is Skin Cancer on Eyelids Common?

lady looking at herself in the mirror

The eyelids are one of the most common areas on the face to develop skin cancer. Because the surface of the eye acts like a mirror, the lower eyelids are vulnerable to sun damage if they are not properly protected. People with fair skin, a history of skin cancer, active smokers, or certain medical conditions are at a higher risk for developing eyelid skin cancer. Sunglasses and/or a hat are the best way to protect the eyes and eyelids from the sun.

What are the first signs of eye cancer?

The earliest signs of eyelid skin cancer are a new growth that is increasing in size, an area of missing eyelashes, or a change in the shape of the lids. Sometimes, patients will feel itchiness or even bleeding or scabbing when an eyelid skin cancer is first starting. Typically, these new growths will not respond to eye medications or warm compresses.

What causes eyelid cancer?

The most common cause of eyelid skin cancer is a history of sun exposure, especially in people with fair skin. Damage to the delicate skin around the eyes can cause skin cancers to develop. A history of skin cancer in other areas of the body, current or past smokers, and certain medical conditions can also lead to eyelid skin cancer.

Does eyelid cancer look like stye?

Sometimes, the early stages of eyelid skin cancer can look like a stye or chalazion. When these conditions do not respond to typical treatments like eye medications or hot compresses, an evaluation by an eyelid specialist may be necessary to see if a biopsy should be performed.

How serious is eyelid skin cancer?

Eyelid skin cancer is a serious condition, but is almost always curable if caught in its early stages. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of eyelid skin cancer and has almost no threat for metastasis to other areas of the body. However, if left untreated basal cell carcinoma can damage the eyelids and tear ducts or in rare cases cause a loss of vision. Other less common types of eyelid skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous gland carcinoma, melanoma, and others) do have a risk to spread to other areas of the body and should be evaluated right away to prevent more dangerous consequences.

How is skin cancer on the eyelid treated?

Eyelid skin cancer is first treated with a biopsy by an oculoplastic surgeon in the office to confirm the condition. Depending on the size, location, and type of cancer, further testing may be necessary to make sure it has not spread to other areas of the body. Once the biopsy is confirmed, most patients will see a special dermatologist called a Mohs surgeon to have the cancer completely removed. To make sure the eyelids look and work normally after skin cancer removal, an oculoplastic surgeon will then perform a reconstruction of the lid(s) in the operating room. In rare cases, chemotherapy medications or radiation can also be used to treat eyelid skin cancer.

Contact SightMD today to set up your evaluation and get more information about treatment options.