Melanoma: Are You In Danger and May Not Know It?

In the media it is common to hear about cancers of the breast and lungs but did you know there are eye cancers? This month we are increasing awareness of eye cancer and how to prevent it.

Eye Cancer

There are two types of eye cancer:

  1. Primary intraocular cancers
    These cancers start inside the eyeball and are common in adults over age 50. The most common is melanoma, which is a result of malignant pigment-making cells called melanocytes. The second is lymphoma, which is a result of a weak immune system. Retinoblastoma, a cancer that arises from cells in the retina, is the most common type of intraocular cancer found in children. The next most common is medulloepithelioma.
  2.  Secondary intraocular cancers
    These cancers start somewhere else in the body and spread to the eye. They are not actually eye cancers but are spread most commonly by breast and lung cancers to the eyeball. These cancers are more common than primary intraocular cancers.

What are the risk factors?

  1. Race/ ethnicity
    Caucasians are more likely to suffer from intraocular cancer than African Americans or Asian Americans.
  2. Eye color
    Light colored eye are at a higher risk for intraocular melanoma.
  3. Inherited genetics
    People with moles and abnormal brown spots on the uvea of the eyeball are more likely to suffered from intraocular cancer
  4. Sun Exposure
    There is still on going research to determine if sunlight has a direct link to melanoma
  5. People suffering from dysplastic nevus syndrome.

How to prevent it

Eye cancer is quite rare and research is still occurring but a great way to prevent it is by wearing UV Sunglasses as they protect your eyes from the sun. Wrap-around sunglasses with 99%-100% UV protection are the best type to select.


There is no exact screening test for cancer but those who are at risk of developing melanoma should conduct yearly eye exams.  If you notice a dark spot around your iris (colored part of the eye) that is noticeably getting bigger, have a doctor look at it.  Whether or not you are at risk for melanoma, conduct yearly exams to ensure early detection.

Treatments for Melanoma

Following the diagnosis and staging of eye cancer, treatment options will be discussed. As with most cancers, treatment plans vary by cancer type, stage, overall health and cancer location. Some treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and laser therapy.

Melanoma is a rare eye cancer but just because it is rare does not mean it cannot occur. Make sure you are taking care of your eyes properly. Remember they are the most important and only visual organs we have. Let Raleigh Eye Center take care of your eyes for you.