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Alternative Names Return to topMalignant melanoma - choroid; Malignant melanoma - eye; Eye tumor; Ocular melanoma
Definition Return to top
Melanoma of the eye is cancer that occurs in various parts of the eye.
Causes Return to top
Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly.
Melanoma of the eye can affect several parts of the eye, including the:
The choroid layer is the most likely location of melanoma in the eye.
The cancer may only be in the eye, or it may spread (metastasize) to another location in the body. 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, primary melanoma of the eye is rare.
Excessive exposure to sunlight is an important risk factor. The occurrence of melanoma has greatly increased in recent decades. Fair-skinned and blue-eyed people are most often affected.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
An eye examination with an ophthalmoscope may reveal a single round or oval lump (tumor) in the eye.
Tests may include:
Treatment Return to top
Small melanomas may be treated with lasers or by radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may be needed if the tumor has spread. Surgical removal of the eye may be necessary to prevent the spread of the tumor to the brain or other organs.
Support Groups Return to top
For additional resources, see cancer support group.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome for melanoma of the eye depends on the size of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Most patients will 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 survival is much lower.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of melanoma of the eye.
Prevention Return to top
The most important way to prevent eye melanoma is to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are most intense. Wear sunglasses, and be sure they have ultraviolet protection.
A yearly eye exam is recommended.
References Return to top
Damato B. Treatment of primary intraocular melanoma. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2006;6:493-506.Update Date: 3/24/2008 Updated by: Stephen Grund, MD, PhD, Chief of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the George Bray Cancer Center at New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.