Risk Factors for Eyelid Cancer

Executive Summary

Risk factors influence the chance of developing cancer among individuals, but individuals with no risk factors also develop cancer. Some of the common risk factors that develop the risk of eyelid cancer include gender (more in white men), fair skin (people with light hair and light-coloured eyes with less melanin), age (average age of diagnosis is 50), history of sunburns or fragile skin, exposure to UV radiation, precancerous skin conditions, previous skin cancer and personal history. People with weakened immune systems or certain medications are at higher risk of developing basal and squamous cell cancers.

Risk factors Associated with Eyelid Cancer

A risk factor can be anything that influences the development of any cancer. But having a risk factor, or many does not give certainty of having particular cancer. Some people with no risk factors can also develop cancer. 

The below-mentioned factors can raise a person’s risk of developing eyelid cancer ​1​:

  • Gender- Rates of skin cancer in white men have increased ​2​.
  • Fair skin- Less melanin (pigment) in skin offers less protection against UV radiation. People with light hair and light-coloured eyes who have skin that doesn’t tan but freckles or burns easily are more likely to develop eyelid cancer ​3​.
  • Age- Most basal and squamous cell cancers appear after age 50.
  • A history of sunburns or fragile skin- Skin that has been burned, sunburned, or injured from disease is at higher risk for eyelid cancer. Basal and squamous cell cancers often occur with repeated, long-term exposure to the sun. Melanoma mainly occurs with intense short-term exposure to the sun.
  • Exposure to UV radiation- Sunlight includes ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. UVB radiation produces sunburn and plays a role in developing squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. UVA radiation penetrates the skin deeply, causing wrinkling or photoaging. The role of UVA radiation in the developing non-melanoma eyelid cancer is suspected but not confirmed. People living in areas with year-round, bright sunlight have a higher risk of developing eyelid cancer and people who spend significant time outside or on a tanning bed, which produces mainly UVA radiation ​4​.
  • Precancerous skin conditions- Two types of lesions may be related to the development of squamous cell cancer in some people. Actinic keratoses are characterized by rough, brown or red, scaly patches on the skin. Bowen’s disease is characterized by pink or bright red, scaly patches on previously or presently sun-exposed skin. Bowen’s disease in areas not exposed to the sun may be associated with arsenic exposure.
  • Previous skin cancer- People who have had any form of skin cancer are at higher risk of developing other skin cancer. For example, about 35% to 50% of people diagnosed with one basal cell cancer will develop new cancer within five years.

Personal history- People with weakened immune systems or certain medications are at higher risk of developing basal and squamous cell cancers. People with rare, predisposing genetic conditions like xeroderma pigmentosum, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, or albinism are at much higher risk for eyelid cancer.


  1. 1.
    Fatigato G, Capitani S, Milani D, et al. Risk factors associated with relapse of eyelid basal cell carcinoma: results from a retrospective study of 142 patients. European Journal of Dermatology. Published online July 2017:363-368. doi:10.1684/ejd.2017.3026
  2. 2.
    Marzuka A, Book S. Basal cell carcinoma: pathogenesis, epidemiology, clinical features, diagnosis, histopathology, and management. Yale J Biol Med. 2015;88(2):167-179. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26029015
  3. 3.
    Mackiewicz-Wysocka M, Bowszyc-Dmochowska M, Strzelecka-Węklar D, Dańczak-Pazdrowska A, Adamski Z. Reviews Basal cell carcinoma – diagnosis. wo. Published online 2013:337-342. doi:10.5114/wo.2013.35684
  4. 4.
    Totir M, Alexandrescu C, Pirvulescu R, Gradinaru S, Costache M. Clinical, Histopathological and Therapeutical Analysis of Inferior Eyelid Basal Cell Carcinomas. J Med Life. 2014;7 Spec No. 4:18-22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27057245