Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It can form on any area of the skin exposed to the sun, including the eyelids. Most commonly on the lower lids, but they can occur anywhere on the eyelids including the corners of the eye, under the eyebrows, and in areas of the face.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV A and B) protection is very important starting in childhood (sunblocks, etc.). Sunglasses are also a key component in eye and eyelid protection.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer, accounting for 90% of cases. Other eyelid cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous gland carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Together, these account for 10% of eyelid malignancies.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Approximately 75% of cases of basal cell carcinoma occur on the lower lid. The lesion usually develops as a small, firm, painless nodule with a smooth, pearly appearance and may develop a reddish color from blood vessel growth.
Basal cell carcinoma of the eyelid progresses very slowly. These cancers almost never spread to distant parts of the body (like melanoma does), but if left untreated, the disease can spread to and destroy surrounding tissue. Complete recovery is possible with surgical excision, but these cancers can recur.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
These growths usually occur on the lower lid. The lesion is usually a raised, scaly patch of reddened skin. It may act like a scab that does not heal. As the disease progresses, the lesion may bleed or drain pus. These growths need to be removed completely.
Malignant melanoma comes from skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color.
Lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM) lesions are flat and tan with irregular borders and become increasingly mottled as they grow. Nodular melanoma (NM) lesions are slightly elevated, blue-black, and resemble blood blisters.
Lentigo maligna melanoma spreads slowly, remains in the upper layers of skin, and does not metastasize. Nodular melanoma is the most aggressive type of melanoma. It grows rapidly and is often fully invasive when diagnosed. It also spreads at a higher rate into other organs than basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.