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Melanoma of the eye

Malignant melanoma - choroid; Malignant melanoma - eye; Eye tumor; Ocular melanoma

Melanoma of the eye is cancer that occurs in various parts of the eye.

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Retina

Causes

Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly. It usually is a type of skin cancer.

Melanoma of the eye can affect several parts of the eye, including the:

The choroid layer is the most likely site of melanoma in the eye. This is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the white of the eye and retina (back of the eye).

The cancer may only be in the eye. Or, it may spread (metastasize) to another location in the body, most commonly the liver. Melanoma can also begin on the skin or other organs in the body and spread to the eye.

Melanoma is the most common type of eye tumor in adults. Even so, melanoma that starts in the eye is rare.

Too much exposure to sunlight is an important risk factor for melanoma. People who have fair-skin and blue eyes are most affected.

Symptoms

Symptoms of melanoma of the eye may include any of the following:

In some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Exams and Tests

An eye examination with an ophthalmoscope may reveal a single round or oval lump (tumor) in the eye.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

Small melanomas may be treated with:

Surgery to remove the eye (enucleation) may be needed.

Other treatments that may be used include:

Support Groups

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome for melanoma of the eye depends on the size of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Most people survive at least 5 years from the time of diagnosis if the cancer has not spread outside the eye.

If the cancer has spread outside the eye, the chance of long-term survival is much lower.

Possible Complications

 Problems that may develop due to melanoma of the eye include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of melanoma of the eye.

Prevention

The most important way to prevent melanoma of the eye is to protect the eyes from sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are most intense. Wear sunglasses that have ultraviolet protection.

A yearly eye exam is recommended.

Related Information

Tumor
Choroid
Melanoma
Retinal detachment
Proton therapy

References

Augsburger JJ, Correa ZM, Berry JL. Malignant intraocular neoplasms. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 8.1.

National Cancer Institute website. Intraocular (uveal) melanoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/eye/hp/intraocular-melanoma-treatment-pdq. Updated March 24, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2019.

Seddon JM, McCannel TA. Epidemiology of posterior uveal melanoma. In: Schachat AP, Sadda SVR, Hinton DR, Wilkinson CP, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 143.

Shields CL, Shields JA. Overview of management of posterior uveal melanoma. In: Schachat AP, Sadda SVR, Hinton DR, Wilkinson CP, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 147.

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Review Date: 7/8/2019  

Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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