Published: Dec. 13, 2007
Updated: Feb. 6, 2012
Skin cancers often involve the eyelids or adjacent areas of the face around the eye. Usually they appear as painless elevations or nodules, most commonly on the lower eyelids or at the corner of the lids near the nose. The lesions may be irritated, ulcerated, or crusted, but often they cause no specific symptoms.
Eyelid cysts can mimic eyelid skin cancers, making it important for patients to seek attention for a proper evaluation.
The single most important cause of skin cancers on the face is excessive exposure to sunlight. People with fair skin and those who spend much time outdoors are most susceptible.
In all cases of eyelid cancers, it is important that diagnosis and treatment happen as soon as possible. This prevents spread of the tumor and allows removal and reconstruction of the eyelid with minimal functional or cosmetic deformity. Complete excision of the tumor is essential to prevent recurrence, which may be even more difficult to treat.
The most appropriate method of tumor removal from the eyelids is surgery. A pathologist will then examine the specimen to ensure that the entire tumor was eliminated (Mohs technique). Once the cancer is removed, the eyelid is reconstructed using a variety of different techniques that depend on the size and the location of the defect.
The most common type of skin cancer around the eye is basal cell carcinoma.
This type of cancer grows slowly over several years and can be locally destructive. However, they do not spread to other parts of the body.
Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a well-defined nodule with a depressed center.
Squamous cell carcinoma is less common and may appear as a somewhat more indistinct nodule.
Although squamous cell carcinoma may spread to other parts of the body, this is very rare.
The two most-serious types of skin cancers of the eyelids are sebaceous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
Both represent only a very small percentage of all cancers of the lids, but both spread rapidly.
Learn more about oculofacial surgery:
For more information about eyelid cancers, contact the Duke Eye Center to make an appointment near you in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and many areas of North Carolina.