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How Does Ocular Melanoma Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Ocular melanoma is an eye cancer that develops in the melanocyte cells (pigment-producing cells) of the eyes. It is usually primary cancer that develops in the eye, not due to other cancers in the body. It is a rare cancer of the body. Its exact causes are not known. Its risk factors are identified, such as old age, exposure to UV rays, white skin color, green or blue eyes, etc. Its symptoms involve the blurring of the vision, bulged growth on the eyes, loss of peripheral sight, and many more.

How Does Ocular Melanoma Affect The Body?

How Does Ocular Melanoma Affect The Body?

Eye melanoma or ocular melanoma most commonly develops in the cells of the middle layer of the eye. This layer is also known as the uvea. It affects pigment-producing cells of the eye, which is responsible for eye color. The uvea comprises of three parts of which any one or any combination of these parts can be affected by eye melanoma:

The Iris- it is the colored part located in the front of the eye

The Choroid Layer – it is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue found in between the sclera and the retina located at the back of the uvea

The Ciliary Body- it is present in front of the uvea whose function is to secrete the transparent liquid (named as aqueous humor) into the eye.

Ocular melanoma can also develop in the outermost layer of the eye known as the conjunctiva, also in the socket that forms the covering of the eyeball, and on the eyelid. However, these types of ocular melanoma are very uncommon.(1)

Ocular melanoma affects the body if it undergoes metastasis. The tumor cells can travel to the other distant parts of the body and grow there. There are three ways by which these cancer cells spread in the body-

Tissue- The cancerous cells spread from its original site by multiplying and growing into adjoining areas.

Lymph System- The cancer cells get into the lymph system from its original site. It may then travel through the lymph vessels to distant parts of the body.

Blood- they can spread through the blood from its original site to distinct parts of the body.(2)

When the tumor cells spread to another part of the body, this process is called metastasis. Cancerous cells in its original site are termed as the primary tumor. They get detached from the original site and travel through the lymph system or blood.(2)

What Triggers Ocular Melanoma?

The factors that trigger primary melanoma of the eye are:

Age- The risk of eye cancer is more elevated with an increase in age.

Light Eye Color- People with blue eyes or green eyes are more likely to develop melanoma of the eye.

Being White Or White Skin, Color- White people have a higher risk of eye melanoma than do people of other races.

Exposure To Ultraviolet (UV) Light- It is found in some studies that exposure to UV light, such as light from the sun or tanning beds, may increase the risk of eye melanoma.

Specific Inherited Skin Disorders- A condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome is a skin disorder that leads to the appearance of abnormal moles in the skin. It can trigger skin melanoma and eye melanoma. Besides, people who have inherited irregular skin pigmentation around the eyelids and adjacent tissues may lead to increased pigmentation on their uvea (ocular melanocytosis), resulting in eye melanoma.

Specific Genetic Mutations- Certain genes are passed from the parents to children that may trigger eye melanoma.(1)


Ocular melanoma affects the melanocyte cells of the eye. It can also spread to the other parts of the eye. In the entire body, it tends to metastasize to any part of the body through tissues, lymph glands, and blood. White skin color, blue or green eyes, old age, exposure to UV light, and others can trigger this cancer.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 8, 2022

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