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Understanding Ocular Melanoma

Updated: Jan 1

Ocular melanoma is an extremely uncommon form of cancer that develops in the cells of the eye that are responsible for pigment production. The uvea, which is the layer of the eye that contains the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, and the ciliary body, which controls the focusing power of the eye, is where it is most commonly found. The iris is the colored part of the eye. It is also possible for melanoma to develop in the choroid of the eye, which is the layer of the eye that is composed of the blood vessels.



Ocular melanoma has an unknown underlying cause, so identifying risk factors is difficult. However, the presence of certain risk factors may raise the likelihood that one may develop this form of skin cancer. These potential dangers include the following:


- Having light-colored eyes, 

- Being over the age of 50

- Having a family history of ocular melanoma 

- Having a history of other melanoma skin cancers 

- Having a history of melanoma in the lymph nodes 

- Having a history of other cancers, such as breast, ovarian, or colorectal cancer 


Genetic Factors: Ocular melanoma has been associated with a number of different genetic mutations that have been identified. The mutations BRAF, NRAS, GNAQ, and GNA11 are some examples of these. A blood test or a biopsy of the tumor can both be used to identify these genetic mutations in the patient.


Diagnosis: There are a few different approaches that can be taken when trying to diagnose ocular melanoma. These approaches consist of:   

- Examining the eye with ultrasound

- CAT scan of the patient's eye imaging by

- MRI of the eye

- Examination of the retina


If ocular melanoma is suspected, a biopsy will be carried out in order to identify the specific type of cancer and figure out the most effective course of treatment.


Treatment: There are several treatments available for ocular melanoma.  These treatments include:

- Surgery

- Radiation therapy

- Chemotherapy

- Targeted therapy


The type of treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, as well as the genetic mutation involved. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and as much of the surrounding tissue as possible. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be used to treat ocular melanoma. Some people with ocular melanoma may have a high risk of the cancer spreading. These patients may be treated with a type of radiation therapy called proton therapy. Proton therapy uses beams of protons to kill cancer cells.


The information provided on this website is not intended to serve as a replacement for the advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified medical professional. If you have any questions about a medical condition, you should never hesitate to consult with either your primary care physician or another qualified healthcare provider. You should never disregard the advice of a qualified medical professional or put off getting treatment because of something you have read on this website.


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