First Lady Jill Biden had Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) found above her right eye during a routine skin cancer screening. On the day of her procedure, another lesion of concern was found on the left side of Dr. Biden’s chest. It was also removed and identified as a basal cell carcinoma.
The delicate skin around the eyes is especially vulnerable to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Because of that, nonmelanoma skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) on and around the eyelids are common.
About Mohs Surgery
The Mohs procedure, recommended by physicians, took place on January 11, 2023 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “All cancerous tissue was successfully removed and the margins were clear of any residual cancer cells,” said Kevin C. O’Connor, DO, Physician to the President.
Mohs surgery is the treatment of choice for most nonmelanoma skin cancers near the eyes. The procedure is done in stages, including lab work, while the patient waits. This allows the removal of all cancerous cells for the highest cure rate while sparing healthy tissue and leaving the smallest possible scar. Read more about what happens during Mohs surgery.
Early Detection Is Key
About 90 percent of skin cancers around the eyes are basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). While BCCs rarely spread, they can grow large enough to cause disfigurement around your eyes. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) account for an estimated 5 percent of skin cancers around the eyes. This type has a higher chance of spreading. Melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer, accounts for about 1-2 percent of eyelid skin cancers.
When diagnosed and treated early, skin cancers around the eyes usually respond well to surgery and follow-up care, with the eye and eyelid functioning intact. But left untreated, they can be dangerous and disfiguring – with the potential to cause tissue damage and blindness.
Focus on Sun Protection
Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is part of a complete sun protection strategy.
- Wear sunglasses whenever you are out in the sun. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year. When choosing sunglasses, look for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
- Wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim to protect your face and the top of your head. Hats can block as much as half of all UV rays from your eyes and eyelids.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, to protect yourself when you need to take off your shades. Choose a sunscreen that is safe for your face and eyes.
Learn more about skin cancer prevention here.
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Read related story on Health.com: What Is Mohs Surgery?