About Ocular Melanoma

Ocular melanoma is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults. It is diagnosed in about 2,000 adults every year in the United States and occurs most often in lightly pigmented individuals with a median age of 55 years. However, it can occur in all races and at any age.

"OM" for short, ocular melanoma is a malignant tumor that can grow and spread to other parts of the body - this process, known as metastasis, is most often fatal and occurs in about half of all cases.

Although produced from the same cells in the body, called melanocytes, OM is different from skin (or cutaneous) melanoma. Ocular Melanoma is the second most common type of melanoma after cutaneous and represents about 5% of all melanomas.

Introduction to Ocular Melanoma

Perhaps you've already heard of melanoma. It develops from the cells that produce the dark-colored pigment melanin, which is responsible for our skin's coloring. These cells, called melanocytes, are found in other places in our bodies, too: our hair, the lining of our internal organs, and our eyes. So while most melanomas do form on the skin, it is possible for a melanoma to form elsewhere. When it forms in the eye, it’s known as ocular melanoma or, more specifically, uveal melanoma, because it forms in the uveal tract of the eye.

OM is much rarer than skin melanoma and behaves quite differently. There are other types of eye cancers, but OM is the most common in adults and the most dangerous. It's a potentially lethal disease which many people die from, especially when it spreads to the liver, a complication in about half of people diagnosed with this disease.

No one knows for sure why OM tumors form but there is heightened prevalence amongst fair-skinned and blue-eyed individuals. Originally, excessive exposure to sunlight was thought to be a key risk factor but no study has proven a direct linkage to development of OM tumors.

Ocular Melanoma Overview Brochure

Ocular_Melanoma_Brochure.pdf
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