Sebaceous carcinoma


Sebaceous carcinoma is a form of cancer that originates from the oil glands in the skin. It is a rare type of cancer and is commonly found in the eyelids. The disease can start as a painless lump or thickening of the skin on the eyelids. On other areas of the body, it can cause a bump on the skin that may bleed or have a scab.

Surgery is the primary treatment for sebaceous carcinoma. The cancer can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, so it is important to remove it as soon as possible. It is also important to carefully monitor the patient after surgery to ensure that the cancer has not spread. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, additional treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be necessary.

It is important to note that sebaceous carcinoma is a rare form of cancer, but it can be very dangerous. If you notice any unusual lumps or bumps on your skin, especially on the eyelids, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Early detection and treatment are critical to improving the chances of a successful outcome.


On eyelids

When sebaceous carcinoma occurs on the eyelid, it can cause various symptoms. These may include one or more of the following signs if the rare skin cancer has spread to the eyelid:

  • An eyelid growth that resembles a pimple.
  • A bleeding growth on the eyelid.
  • The area where the eyelid and lash connect becoming thicker.
  • A yellow or reddish crust at the junction of the eyelid and the lash.
  • A hard, deep, painless lump on the eyelid that is slowly expanding and frequently yellow in color.
  • An eyelid sore that either does not go away or does but then comes back.

As sebaceous carcinoma progresses and spreads to the eyelid, it can often resemble pink eye in appearance. Visible growths may appear on the upper and lower eyelids, which can break open and discharge fluid.

Identified as another condition: Stye, chalazion, or pink eye

Sebaceous carcinoma is unusual. On the eyelid, other growths appear significantly more frequently. Sebaceous carcinoma can occasionally be confused with one of these eye conditions:

Stye: A stye is a typical growth that resembles a pimple on the eyelid and is often accompanied by tenderness upon touch. If left untreated, it can cause discomfort while blinking and result in swelling of the eyelid along with watering eyes.

However, most styes can be effectively treated with warm compresses applied 4 to 6 times a day. This treatment approach can help alleviate the symptoms and promote healing.
Chalazion: An eyelid swelling is a common symptom of chalazion, a typical eye condition. Fortunately, chalazions can often be effectively treated with warm compresses and antibiotic eye drops, which usually result in a complete resolution of the problem.
Pink eye: Sebaceous carcinoma, which is also known as conjunctivitis, might resemble pink eye that just won’t go away despite treatment.

Beyond the eyelid

Sebaceous carcinoma is rarely found in other parts of the body, as it typically develops on the head or neck and may also manifest in the genitalia, ear canal, breasts, and body trunk (chest, back, abdomen, and buttocks).
In certain areas, sebaceous carcinoma may present as a slowly expanding pink or yellowish lump that can bleed. If you experience any of the following for more than two weeks, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with a dermatologist promptly:

  • A change in a mole or other place.
  • An ear infection; a new growth on your skin; or an eyelid infection.
  • Any development or place that begins to bleed, expand, or alter in any manner.


The exact causes of sebaceous carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer, are not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that sun exposure may be a contributing factor, given that most cases of sebaceous carcinoma occur on the head and neck. If you notice any growths on your eyelid, it is crucial to seek a diagnosis from a dermatologist. Although sebaceous carcinoma is rare, early detection and treatment can significantly improve the chances of successful management. Therefore, regular skin checks and prompt medical attention for any suspicious growths or changes in the skin are essential for maintaining good skin health.

Risk factors

The average age of individuals diagnosed with this rare skin cancer is between 60 and 80 years old. However, sebaceous cancer can occur earlier or later in life. According to research studies, a 3-year-old toddler and individuals in their 90s have both been diagnosed with this condition.

Other risk factors

Age is a typical risk factor for sebaceous carcinoma. Additional risk factors include:

  • Compromised immune system: Sebaceous carcinoma risk is significantly raised by immune system weakened. The following things could impair immunity:
    • Some drugs prescribed for arthritis or psoriasis.
    • Medication used to stop the body from rejecting an organ transplant.
    • A few illnesses, include cancer or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
  • Radiation treatments to the head or neck: This uncommon skin cancer has been identified in adults in their 60s and 70s who got these radiation treatments as children. As a side effect of radiation therapy for retinoblastoma, an eye cancer, sebaceous carcinoma can also manifest in young patients.
  • Race: Some studies suggest that Asians may have a higher susceptibility to sebaceous carcinoma on the eyelid, but this finding has not been consistently confirmed by other investigations.
  • Muir-Torre syndrome: This illness is quite uncommon. Many people are unaware of their disease until they receive a sebaceous carcinoma diagnosis.

An increased risk of certain cancers exists in people with Muir-Torre syndrome. The risk of getting a certain type of colon cancer is highest. You can discuss tests to identify colon cancer in its earliest stages with your doctor.