Intraocular (uveal) melanoma is a rare cancer that forms in the eye. It usually has no early signs or symptoms. As with melanoma of the skin, risk factors include having fair skin and light-colored eyes. Explore the links on this page to learn more about intraocular melanoma, its treatment, and clinical trials.

Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma Treatment

  • Intraocular melanoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the eye.
  • Being older and having fair skin may increase the risk of intraocular melanoma.
  • Signs of intraocular melanoma include blurred vision or a dark spot on the iris.
  • Tests that examine the eye are used to help detect (find) and diagnose intraocular melanoma.
  • A biopsy of the tumor is rarely needed to diagnose intraocular melanoma.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Intraocular melanoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the eye.

Intraocular melanoma begins in the middle of three layers of the wall of the eye. The outer layer includes the white sclera (the “white of the eye”) and the clear cornea at the front of the eye. The inner layer has a lining of nerve tissue, called the retina, which senses light and sends images along the optic nerve to the brain.

The middle layer, where intraocular melanoma forms, is called the uvea or uveal tract, and has three main parts:

  • Iris

    The iris is the colored area at the front of the eye (the “eye color”). It can be seen through the clear cornea. The pupil is in the center of the iris and it changes size to let more or less light into the eye. Intraocular melanoma of the iris is usually a small tumor that grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

  • Ciliary body

    The ciliary body is a ring of tissue with muscle fibers that change the size of the pupil and the shape of the lens. It is found behind the iris. Changes in the shape of the lens help the eye focus. The ciliary body also makes the clear fluid that fills the space between the cornea and the iris. Intraocular melanoma of the ciliary body is often larger and more likely to spread to other parts of the body than intraocular melanoma of the iris.

  • Choroid

    The choroid is a layer of blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the eye. Most intraocular melanomas begin in the choroid. Intraocular melanoma of the choroid is often larger and more likely to spread to other parts of the body than intraocular melanoma of the iris.

Intraocular melanoma is a rare cancer that forms from cells that make melanin in the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. It is the most common eye cancer in adults.

Being older and having fair skin may increase the risk of intraocular melanoma.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for intraocular melanoma include the following:

  • Having a fair complexion, which includes the following:
    • Fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly.
    • Blue or green or other light-colored eyes.
  • Older age.
  • Being white.

Signs of intraocular melanoma include blurred vision or a dark spot on the iris.

Intraocular melanoma may not cause early signs or symptoms. It is sometimes found during a regular eye exam when the doctor dilates the pupil and looks into the eye. Signs and symptoms may be caused by intraocular melanoma or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Blurred vision or other change in vision.
  • Floaters (spots that drift in your field of vision) or flashes of light.
  • A dark spot on the iris.
  • A change in the size or shape of the pupil.
  • A change in the position of the eyeball in the eye socket.

Childhood Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma Treatment

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by intraocular melanoma or by other conditions.

Check with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Trouble seeing.
  • Dark spot on the iris (colored part of the eye).
  • A bulging eye.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.