Eye Cancer (Ocular Melanoma)

See also: L.F. Montgomery Laboratory, Ocular Melanoma Research, Ocular Oncology (Eye Cancer) and Pathology, Ocular Oncology and Pathology Clinical Fellowship, Retinoblastoma

What is Eye Cancer?

Eye tumors are either primary tumors originating within the eye or associated structures or secondary tumors caused by cancers that have spread from other parts of the body. Both may involve the eye, eyelid, orbit and lacrimal glands. Some of the most common eye cancers are (click on panels to open):

Choroidal melanoma

The most common intraocular (inside the eye) tumor in adults.  Does not come from another cancer in the body. The tumor can be in the iris or in the choroid, the layer of blood vessels between the retina and the white of the eye, the sclera. Symptoms are often silent and found by routine eye exams. A nevus is a benign growth but must be watched to be sure it doesn’t change into a melanoma.

Choroidal hemangioma

A tumor comprised of blood vessels, which can grow in the choroid, the blood vessel layer beneath the retina.

Conjunctival tumors

Malignant cancers growing on the outer surface of the eye, including squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, lymphoma and carcinoma-in-situ.

Eyelid/Orbital tumors

Benign cysts, inflammatory or malignant skin cancers, including basal cell, squamous cell, and meibomian gland carcinomas. The tumors, both benign and malignant, occur in children and adults. Examples of childhood tumors are rhabdomyomas and dermoids and adult tumors include hemangiomas, lymphomas, lacrimal gland tumors and cysts.

Iris and ciliary body tumor

Tumors that grow within the iris (colored part of the eye) or behind the iris (ciliary body). Some are cysts or a nevus (benign), though malignant melanomas can occur in this area.


Tumors appearing in the eyelid tissue, tear ducts and the eye itself. In patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, symptoms may appear in the eye before they are noted elsewhere.

Retinal tumors

Tumors in the innermost layer of blood vessels and nerves that serve as the “film” of the eye. Retinoblastoma (RB) is a malignant tumor of the retina that affects mostly children.


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