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Ocular Melanoma

Woman getting her eyes checked by an ocologist

Ocular melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the eye, specifically in the cells that produce pigment (melanocytes). It typically affects one or more parts of the uvea, the middle section of the eye that includes the iris (the colored part of the eye), the choroid layer (the blood vessels and tissues between the sclera and retina) and the ciliary body (the thin layer in front of the uvea). Although ocular melanoma is rare, it is the most common form of eye cancer in adults.

What are the symptoms of ocular melanoma? 

One of the challenges of detecting ocular melanoma is its lack of obvious symptoms. While melanoma that develops in the iris is usually noticeable, other forms that develop behind the eye are not clearly visible. Some people don’t experience any ocular melanoma symptoms, but those who do often have:

  • Blurry or unusually poor vision in one eye
  • “Floaters,” or flashes or specks in the line of vision
  • A dark spot on the eye
  • A strangely shaped pupil (the dark circle of the eye)
  • A loss of peripheral (side) vision

The exact causes of ocular melanoma are unknown. However, you may be at a higher risk of developing this cancer if you have light-colored eyes, are Caucasian, are frequently exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light or have a skin disorder that affects your eye area.

How is ocular melanoma treated?

Ocular melanoma treatment can vary according to the patient’s age and overall health as well as the extent and location of his or her cancer. If a patient has a small eye melanoma, radiation therapy, laser therapy or photodynamic therapy may be recommended to shrink or destroy the cancer. An active surveillance approach may also be taken if the melanoma has not spread and is not causing symptoms. In more advanced cases, surgery may be recommended to remove part or all of the eyeball.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, patients in our Cutaneous Oncology Program benefit from the expertise of surgical oncologists, plastic surgeons, radiation oncologists and other experts who specialize in melanoma. Contact 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online if you would like to speak with a Moffitt oncologist. We welcome patients with or without referrals.