Question: Is it true you can get skin cancers on the eyelids?
Answer: Yes , skin cancers on the eyelid are relatively common. The three most common are all related to sun exposure: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. In our efforts to tan evenly, most of us make sure our eyelids receive adequate sun. So, lo and behold, that skin can get skin cancers too.
As with skin cancers elsewhere, early treatment makes all the difference. When the lesion is small, the excision and reconstruction can be quick and easy. If ignored or allowed to get large, the process can become rather involved. Sometimes Mohs surgery will be used to remove the lesion, especially when the suspicious area is ill-defined or if the cancer is in a high-risk area (such as the inner corners of the eyelids).
Basal cell skin cancers are typically pearly white in color, raised, may have fine capillaries and may bleed easily when rubbed or scratched. Squamous cancers are often scaly, red and ill-defined. These two types of skin cancer rarely spread in the bloodstream, but you may have multiple sites where these show up. Melanoma appears as dark brown to black, and is often irregular in shape. These can spread through the bloodstream and therefore it is very important to remove these as early as possible.
If you notice a spot on your lids, pay attention — especially if it's new! Any lesion that has a different color or texture compared to the surrounding skin should be evaluated, as should any lesion that comes and goes — like a pimple or scaly area.
If in doubt, check it out!
Andrea Hass, M.D., is Board Certified in Ophthalmology (residency: Temple University) and Fellowship Trained in Orbital & Oculoplastic Surgery (Wills Eye Hospital). She is a member of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons and has practiced in New York City and in Palm Beach Gardens with her husband, plastic surgeon Brian Hass, M.D., since 1995.
Hass Plastic Surgery & MediSpa
2401 PGA Blvd.
Palm Beach Gardens