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Home » What's New » May is Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

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Ocular melanoma is the most common primary eye tumor in adults and the 2nd most common melanoma (after cutaneous melanoma) with around 2,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Like other melanomas, it begins in melanocytes – the cells that produce the pigment melanin that colors the skin, hair, and eyes, as well as forms moles.

We have cells that produce pigment in our eyes. These cells are found in the Uveal tract of the eye which constitute the choroid iris and ciliary body. You can learn more about the uvea of your eye in this link Uvea definition and diagram

Melanoma of the eye often spread to other parts of the body. Most patients diagnosed with ocular melanoma will need to have their eye enulceated (removed) and will be fit with a prosthetic eye

Melanoma of the skin increased in frequency over the last several decades, while such a trend is less evident with ocular melanoma. About 6 people per 1 million are diagnosed with eye melanoma in the U.S. every year, while invasive melanoma of the skin occurs in approximately 1 in 50 Americans each year. The incidence is similar in other Caucasian populations worldwide. According to a 2017 article published in Clinical Ophthalmology, melanoma of the eye accounts for approximately 3-5% of all melanomas.

A variety of risk factors have been identified, including light eyes, fair skin type, dysplastic nevus syndrome and genetic mutation. The role of sun exposure as a risk factor for ocular melanoma remains unclear.

Melanoma of the eye tends to occur slightly more often in males than in females and overall risk tends to increase with age.

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