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Definition:

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



Alternative Names:

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



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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: In some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Signs and tests:

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

Tests may include:



Treatment:

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:

For additional resources, see cancer support group .



Expectations (prognosis):

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.



Complications:

Calling your health care provider:

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 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:

Damato B. Treatment of primary intraocular melanoma. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2006;6:493-506.




Review Date: 3/24/2008
Reviewed 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.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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