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Eyelid Skin Cancers Surprisingly Common

By July 28, 2009

“Eyelid skin cancer is not something most people think about,” according to C. William Hanke, MD, senior vice president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. But “with their thin, delicate structures, the eyes and surrounding areas are particularly prone to cancers. And it’s an area people often forget to protect from the sun.”

Despite their small surface area, up to 10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids. While only a small number of basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas are lethal, eyelid skin cancers can cause significant tissue damage and blindness, and can spread into the nasal and orbital cavities (the area behind the eye).

Early detection is essential. Early warning signs include:

  • a lump or bump that frequently bleeds or does not disappear
  • persistent red eye or inflammation of the eyelids that does not respond to medication
  • newly acquired flat or elevated pigmented lesions that have irregular borders and growth
  • unexplained loss of eyelashes

So how do you prevent eyelid skin cancers? It's both simple and fashionable: wear sunglasses year round. Select sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation and choose a polarized lens to reduce the glare of light reflected on the water, or the light you face while driving. And choose a lens size sufficient to shield the eyes, eyelids and surrounding areas. The more skin you cover, the better. Wraparound styles with a comfortable, close fit and UV protective side shields are ideal.

Looking cool while preventing skin cancer -- what's not to like about that?

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