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Eyelid Cancer

Skin Cancer of the Eyelid


Updated May 04, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Basal cell cancer

Basal cell skin cancer

When it comes to cancer, most people don't think about the eyelid. However, if you think about it, your face and eyes are probably exposed to the sun more than the rest of your body. In fact, about 10% of skin cancer is found on the eyelids. If you work outside or live in the southern part of the country, you are at higher risk for developing eyelid cancer.

What is eyelid cancer?

The most common type of eyelid cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell cancer comes from the innermost layer of the skin. Ultraviolet radiation is thought to be the cause of most basal cell cancers. People with fair complexions have a higher risk of developing the condition.

What does eyelid cancer look like?

Basal cell often starts as a small, raised bump or lump on the eyelid. The lower eyelid is affected more often than the upper eyelid. As the cancer progresses, it may develop into a shiny, smooth nodule with an indented center.

Can you prevent eyelid cancer?

The best way to prevent eyelid cancer is to protect your eyes. Use the following tips to help prevent eyelid cancer:
  • Limit sun exposure
  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Apply sunscreen to your face (take care not to get it in your eyes)
  • Wear a visor or a hat to shade your eyes
  • Have an annual eye examination

What you should know about eyelid cancer

Although your optometrist or ophthalmologist is trained to diagnose lesions on your eyelid, you will probably be referred to a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. A true diagnosis can only be made by a microscopic examination of the cells.


Catania, Louis J. Primary Care of the Anterior Segment, 2nd Edition. Appleton & Lange, 1995, pp 107-108.

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