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Eye cancer is a general term used to describe many types of tumors that occur in various parts of the eye. It occurs when cells in or around the eye grow abnormally and form a tumor. A tumor may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous, meaning cells can spread to other parts of the body). Cancer that forms in the eyeball is called an intraocular malignancy.

Parts of the eye

The eye is the organ that collects light and sends messages to the brain to form a picture. The three main parts of the eye are: -
  • Eyeball
  • Orbit (eye socket)
  • Adnexal (accessory) structures (such as the eyelid and tear glands)
The outer part of the eye is made up of the sclera, retina, and uvea. The sclera is the outer wall of the eyeball. The retina is a thin-layered structure that lines the eyeball and sends information from the eye to the brain. The uvea nourishes the eye. Both the retina and the uvea contain blood vessels.

The uvea consists of the following: -
  • Iris: - The colored part of the eye that controls the amount of light entering the eye
  • Ciliary body: - Muscular tissue that produces the watery fluid (aqueous humor) in the eye and helps the eye focus
  • Choroid: - The layer of tissue underneath the retina that contains connective tissue and melanocytes and nourishes the inside of the eye; the choroid is the most common site for a tumor.

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Types of intraocular cancer

The most common intraocular cancer in adults is uveal metastases, which is cancer that has spread to uvea from another place in the body, called secondary cancer. This article is about primary intraocular cancer, meaning that the tumor started in the eye, not somewhere else in the body.

Melanoma is the most common type of primary intraocular cancer in adults. It begins when pigmented (colored) cells in the eye called melanocytes grow uncontrollably. Intraocular melanoma is also called uveal melanoma.

Medical doctors who specialize in the diseases and function of the eye are called ophthalmologists (or “eye MDs”). These doctors can diagnose and treat intraocular melanoma. Optometrists are another type of eye doctor. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Other, less common types of an intraocular tumor include: -

Intraocular lymphoma is lymphoma that begins in the eyeball. This condition is rare and can be difficult for doctors to diagnose. Many doctors consider intraocular lymphoma to be a type of central nervous system lymphoma. Most intraocular lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Retinoblastoma is a rare form of childhood eye cancer. Information about this cancer can be found in the

Hemangioma is a benign vascular tumor of the choroid and retina.

In addition, rare tumors of the eye include: -

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Conjunctival melanoma, a tumor of the conjunctiva (a membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball). If this tumor is not treated, it can spread to the lymph nodes. This tumor tends to recur (come back after treatment) on the eye’s surface and looks like dark spots on the eye. Doctors often perform a biopsy (removal of a sample of the tissue for examination under a microscope) on a lesion that appears to be conjunctival melanoma.

Eyelid carcinoma (basal or squamous cell) is a variation of skin cancer. This tumor may be surgically removed and is usually not dangerous if it is treated early.

Eye Cancer Symptoms

Though there are no preliminary symptoms : -
  • A dark area noted on the iris.
  • Experiencing fuzzy vision.
  • An alteration in the shape of the pupil.
  • Ocular changes.
  • Pain experienced in the eyes.
  • Blurring of vision.
  • Reddish eyes.
  • Feeling nauseous.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Some risk factors can be controlled, such as smoking, and some cannot be controlled, such as age and family history. Although risk factors can influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop the disease, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and communicating them to your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health-care choices.

The following factors can raise a person’s risk of developing eye cancer: -

Age. Most cases of primary intraocular melanoma occur in people over the age of 50, and the average age of diagnosis is 55. It is rare in children and people over the age of 70.

Race. Primary intraocular melanoma is more common in white people and less common in black people.

Gender. Intraocular melanoma affects about equal numbers of men and women.

Individual history. People with the following medical conditions have a higher risk of developing primary intraocular melanoma: -
  • Ocular or oculodermal melanocytosis (pigmentation of the eye or skin around the eye; it is also called nevus of Ota)
  • Nevi, or spots like moles in the eye
  • Dysplastic nevus syndrome (a condition marked by multiple flat moles that are irregular in shape or color)

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Family history. Intraocular melanoma doesn’t generally run in families, although a couple of rare cases have been reported.

Other. Some studies have suggested that sunlight or certain chemicals may be a risk factor for intraocular melanoma, but the data are not conclusive about this association.

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