Posted October 18, 2013
Every year, approximately 2,500 American adults are diagnosed with ocular melanoma (OM) – the most common form of cancer that occurs in the eye.
Described as an aggressive malignant cancer that starts in the pigment cells that produce eye color, OM tends to occur in people with light pigmentation and blue or green eyes and who are over age 50. However, it also can occur in individuals of every race and at any age. For about 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with OM, the cancer may be fatal, because it metastasizes and spreads to other parts of the body.
OM is considered a silent killer. There are no early warning signs, and it is difficult to see when studying your eyes in the mirror.
Eye professionals usually detect OM during routine eye exams, reinforcing the importance of scheduling regular appointments. Once OM has developed, people may experience blurred vision, a change in the shape of the pupil, flashing lights in their vision, loss of vision in the affected eye or a dark spot on the iris.
Researchers have discovered that people with OM tend to have certain gene mutations, which could suggest there is a strong genetic component to the disease. However, scientists have not concluded that these abnormalities are the cause. They believe there may be a connection between the development of OM and prolonged exposure to sunlight or artificial light, such as from tanning beds, but there is not significant research confirming this link.
Learn more about ocular melanoma: