According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 2,580 eye cancers diagnosed in 2015 with most of them occurring as melanoma of the eye. While this number is not staggering when compared to the overall population, melanoma can be fatal. As with most cancers, Cancer Research UK has published stats indicating that early detection is your best chance at survival if you are diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
What is Melanoma of the Eye?
Melanoma is an aggressive cancer that forms in the cells responsible for skin pigmentation through the production of melanin. Since your eyes also have melanin-producing cells, melanoma tumors can form in various parts of your eye. Although the choroid layer is the likely site for ocular melanoma, the following parts may also be affected:
- – Ciliary body
- – Iris
- – Conjunctiva
- – Orbit
- – Eyelid
What Causes Ocular Melanoma?
While an exact cause is not known, the Mayo Clinic describes ocular melanoma as a DNA error that prevents cells from shedding in their typical life cycle. Cells grow uncontrollably and mutated cells accumulate rather than dying off and form melanoma. Despite the notion that it caused by a problem with DNA, there are risk factors that may increase the odds of contracting the disease:
- – Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays
- – Persons with green or blue eyes
- – Caucasians are generally more susceptible
- – Skin conditions related to pigmentation or excessive mole growth
What Symptoms May Occur?
Even though everyone may not experience symptoms, you should see your eye care professional immediately if you experience bulging of one or both of your eyes, a change in the color of your iris, reduced vision, painful and red eye or noticeable defects.
What is my Best Defense?
Your best defense is to have a regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exam including optomap® ultra-widefield (UWF™) retinal imaging. Due to the high resolution images and unprecedented 200 degree view of the retina, optomap has been clinically proven to be effective as a diagnostic tool for early detection of melanoma of the eye.