Why you should start wearing sunglasses (hint: they protect you from eyelid cancer)

When it comes to eye and skin care, sunglasses are more than just trendy. They can help protect your eyes and prevent different eye- and skin-related health concerns.

In the U.K., skin cancer rates are skyrocketing. But this can be prevented by one simple change: choosing the right kind of sunglasses that can also protect the skin around your eyes.

Most of the reported cases in the U.K. involve cancers of the eyelid. The eyelids and the surrounding area require protection because they are cancer-prone, especially since this part of the face has thinner skin and it usually isn’t protected from the sun’s harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays.

Tricia Griffin, a 65-year-old retired teacher from Barnet, North London, reports that she didn’t realize how crucial sunglasses are until she developed skin cancer on her eyelid. Griffin first noticed a small, white lump on her eyelid in 2016. She initially thought that it was merely a sign of old age, such as a skin tag. While she once thought that she needed to get the lump checked, it often slipped her mind, mainly since it wasn’t big enough to obscure her vision. Four months after she noticed the small lump on her eyelid, Griffin visited her cousin Mary.

Mary recently had an eye operation. Griffin shared, “She told me she’d had skin cancer in her eyelid and when she described the lump I [realized] to my horror that I had the same.”

Griffin was shocked, especially since she believed that she’d been very observant about any changes in her moles. She didn’t realize that the area around her eyes was also cancer-prone. After consulting a healthcare professional, Griffin was told that the lump on her eyelid was a basal cell carcinoma.

The most common type of skin cancer on the eyelids, basal cell carcinoma usually involve the deeper layer of the skin. While they seldom spread to other body parts, basal cell carcinomas may damage surrounding structures like the eye’s opening mechanism or the tear duct.

In the U.K., at least 13,600 cases of eyelid cancers are diagnosed annually. This makes up about 10 percent of non-malignant skin cancers diagnosed in the country.

Squamous cell carcinoma, which affects the outer layers of the skin, is the second most common form of eyelid skin cancer. Both types of carcinomas make up a whopping 95 percent of all eyelid cancers.

Malignant melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer that spreads to other organs, seldom develops in the eyelids.

Raj Das-Bhaumik, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explained that while both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can begin as small pimples or fleshy bumps, they may get bigger. The bigger growths may even bleed and crust over. Das-Bhaumik added that the carcinomas could thicken and turn into ulcers that don’t heal.

Consult a healthcare professional if you notice these symptoms, which may indicate eyelid cancer:

  • Chronic infection of the eyelid
  • The eyelashes turning white (due to pigment cells being affected by cancer)
  • Redness and inflammation of the eyelids
  • A spreading, colored mass on the eyelid
  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Thickening of the eyelid
  • Ulcerations (areas where the skin is broken) on the eyelid that doesn’t heal
  • Unexplained eyelash loss

Choose the right sunglasses to prevent sun damage

To avoid sun damage to your eyes and the skin around them, wear a wide-brimmed hat and stay in the shade. Don’t forget to wear a pair of sunglasses when it’s sunny. (Related: 5 Questions to ask before buying sunglasses.)

Large wraparound sunglasses that fit snugly can help block out sun damage from all sides, advised Das-Bhaumik. If you’re not getting wraparound glasses, chose a pair that covers your eyebrows and the bone below your eye and covers most of the edge of your nose.

Always get sunglasses that have UV protection. Das-Bhaumik added that sunglasses with polarized lenses could help block out horizontal and vertical light, which can minimize glare and improve contrast.

Sunglasses are a versatile accessory, and if you choose them correctly, they can help prevent eyelid cancer and other health concerns.

You can read more articles with tips on how to prevent eyelid cancer at Cancer.news.

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