We get questions, comments, and even shareposts written about the symptom of itchy eyelids. In response, I wrote an article about some of the non-cancerous reasons for this symptom including allergies, pink eye, and blepharitis. In most cases, the cause for itchy or irritated eyelids is going to be some sort of benign skin condition or medical disorder. Yet in some cases, skin changes of the eyelid may be more concerning as it is possible to develop skin cancer of the eyelid. In this post we are going to tell you the warning signs of eyelid skin cancer and some tips for preventing this type of skin cancer from developing.
The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that the eyelids are one of the most common skin sites for nonmelanoma skin cancers and up to 95% of eyelid skin cancers are either basil cell or squamous cell carcinomas. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of eyelid cancer and usually affects the lower lid. Complications from eyelid cancer can include tissue damage to adjacent ocular structures and even blindness if left untreated. Early diagnosis is vital to preventing damage to the skin tissues surrounding the eye. Treatment with Mohs micrographic surgery has shown to have the best success rates for minimizing the recurrence of eyelid skin cancer.
What are the warning signs of eyelid skin cancer?
• Doctor David R. Jordan, who writes for InSight, a quarterly report for eye care health care professionals, writes that any bump on the eyelid region that is changing in appearance should be looked at by a doctor. Flaking, crusting, itching, and bleeding are warning signs of possible skin cancer.
• The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that any change in the appearance of the eyelid skin, a swelling or thickening of the eyelid, an ulceration that does not heal, or a spreading colored mass on the eyelid may indicate skin cancer. They also report that some people with eyelid cancer may not show any of these symptoms.
• The Skin Cancer Foundation states that the signs of eyelid skin cancer can be highly variable. The cancer may present with a scar-like appearance or texture. There may be a tumor, ulceration or sore, altered appearance, a red spot or ingrown eyelashes.
Since the symptoms of eyelid cancer can vary greatly for each individual, it is all the more important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any type of unexplained skin changes. My motto has always been: When in doubt get it checked out!
How to prevent eyelid skin cancer
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main cause for all types of skin cancer including skin cancer of the eyelids. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the sun’s rays can cause not only eyelid skin cancer but can also cause other eye damage such as cataracts. It is therefore wise to take preventive action to protect your eyes from the sun. Here are some tips to help.
• The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more to the eyelid regions as well as all exposed areas of the body. Some people worry that swimming or sweating my cause the sunscreen to run into the eyes and irritate them. In this case you may want to use a moisturizer or eye cream with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher. Such creams are less likely to run into your eyes.
• Wear wraparound sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.
• Wear a wide brimmed hat to block the sun’s rays from your face and eyes.
The important thing to remember is that skin cancer is both preventable and treatable. Discuss your skin cancer risks with your doctor. Make sure to get a yearly skin exam with a dermatologist who can assess any skin changes to make sure they are not skin cancer. And if you find a new growth or skin change which worries you, get it checked out. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
For more skin cancer prevention tips please refer to the following SkinCancerConnection articles: