female-eye-close-upBecause of their small size, it’s easy to forget about the eyelids when we think about our skin cancer risk. But in reality, the eyelids are among the most common places on the body to develop non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While the vast majority of eyelid cancers are non-melanomas, it is also possible to develop melanoma eyelid cancer.

The most common cause of non-melanoma skin cancer is too much sun, which is what makes the eyelids – especially the lower eyelids – so vulnerable. If you think that you might have eyelid cancer, contact our team of expert doctors at the Eyelid Reconstruction Center of Excellence immediately.

Common Symptoms of Eyelid Cancer

As with most cancers, early detection is the key to successful treatment of eyelid cancer. However, eyelid cancer can be difficult to identify in the early stages because it grows beneath the skin. Warning signs for eyelid skin cancer include:

  • A bump that bleeds or doesn’t heal
  • Unexplained loss of eyelashes
  • Red eye or swelling of the eyelids that doesn’t heal
  • A pigmented lesion with irregular borders

Common Types of Eyelid Cancer

The term eyelid cancer actually encompasses a broad variety of different types of cancer. Some of the most common cancers affecting the eyelids are:


  • Basil cell carcinoma
  • Sebaceous carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma

Accounting for more than 90% of all eyelid cancers, Basil cell carcinoma begins in the lower epidermis and results directly from sun exposure. Typically, it occurs in the lower eyelid. This type of cancer does not usually spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs.

Sebaceous carcinoma is the second most common type of eyelid cancer. It occurs mostly in middle aged and older adults. This type of cancer often appears on the upper eyelid and is considered an aggressive cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma beings in the squamous cells along the top layer of the epidermis. It is associated with sun exposure as well as exposure to chemicals and X-rays. It is an aggressive cancer than can spread to nearby tissue.

Melanoma accounts for a very small percentage of eyelid cancers but can be extremely dangerous and life threatening. Merkel cell carcinoma is also a rare but aggressive form of eyelid cancer. It typically presents as a purple or skin-colored mass and grows very quickly.

Treatment for Eyelid Cancer

Treatment for eyelid cancer depends on the specific type of cancer and each individual patient. But one of the most common techniques is a simple excision in which the lesion is cut away along with a small amount of the healthy surrounding tissue. Another technique that is especially effective in treating the eyelids is Mohs micrographic surgery. With Mohs surgery, the affected tissue is excised layer-by-layer and examined under a microscope. This process continues until only healthy tissue remains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is eyelid cancer common?

A: Because skin cancer occurs most frequently on the areas that get the most exposure to the sun, eyelid skin cancer is a relatively common form of the disease.

Q: What can I do to prevent eyelid cancer?

A: One of the best ways to prevent eyelid skin cancer is to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. The sunglasses you choose should block 99-100% of all UVA and UVB radiation.

Q: What are the risk factors for eyelid cancer?

A: The primary cause of eyelid skin cancer is exposure to the sun. Genetic risks include having a fair complexion, light-colored eyes, blond or red hair, a tendency to burn, and a family history of skin cancer. Those who’ve had skin cancer before are also more susceptible.

Q: Should I have radiation instead of surgery to treat my eyelid cancer?

A: In most cases, no. Not only is the success rate higher for surgical excision, but the cosmetic results are also better for most patients.

Schedule a Consultation with an Eyelid Surgeon

When it comes to eyelid skin cancer, early detection and treatment are essential. So if you have any of the symptoms above or suspect you might have eyelid skin cancer, don’t wait to contact our eyelid surgery specialists at the Eyelid Reconstruction Center of Excellence. Call today at (888) 384-0981 to schedule a consultation or fill out our online form.

Next, read about eyelid paralysis.