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What is it?

Melanoma is the most common intraocular tumour found in adults and it is characterised by the growth of cancerous cells from pigmented eye tissue called the "uvea" (iris, ciliary body and choroid).

Symptoms

If it is located in the anterior part of the eye, the patient may notice the appearance of a spot on the iris or a change in shape or size of the pupil. If it is located in the posterior part, it may involve blurred vision, seeing moving spots on the eye or the appearance of a shadow in the visual field. Many cases are completely asymptomatic.

Risk factors

It is most common in white people with light coloured eyes (a grey, blue or green iris). Patients affected by congenital ocular melanocytosis and uveal nevi with signs of progression are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. 

Eating habits, drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and exposure to the sun, are not related to the development of this disease. Skin melanoma predisposes an individual to developing uveal melanoma. 

Types

If it is located in the anterior part of the eye, it is called melanoma of the iris (and/or the ciliary body) and if it grows in the posterior part, then it is melanoma of the choroid. In terms of size, it can be small, medium or large. The growth pattern of uveal melanoma can be flat, diffuse, nodular, mushroom-shaped or even invade extraocular structures.

Prevention

Everyone should have a biannual eye check-up including an examination of the back of the eye. If there are any risk factors or signs of the onset of any predisposing lesion, it is necessary to have more regular check-ups with a specialist in eye oncology.

Treatment

There are various options depending on the size and location of the lesion: episcleral brachytherapy, surgical resection, external radiotherapy or enucleation. Given its low prevalence, we recommend you have treatment at a centre of reference.

Professionals who treat this pathology

Frequently asked questions

  • Uveal melanoma is an acquired disease. Only 2% of cases have a hereditary component (the very uncommon BAP-1 syndrome).

  • Yes. This is what's known as a metastatic disease. The large tumours, the cilliary body compromise and some genetic anomalies are predisposed to spreading. Patients affected by uveal melanoma must undergo systematic check-ups with a specialist in general oncology, focused on the liver and bones in particular. 

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