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Is Ocular Melanoma Hereditary & Can An Optometrist Detect It?

Ocular melanoma is rare cancer that develops in the pigment-producing cells of the eyes that give color to the eyes. It can affect Iris, ciliary body, and choroids. Its exact causes are not clear. Its risk factors involve old age, white skin color, light-colored eyes, overexposure to the sun or UV rays, and many more. It is represented by symptoms such as blurred vision, dark spots in the eyes, flashes of the light, etc. It can be detected by an optician or an ophthalmologist during routine eye checkups.

Is Ocular Melanoma Hereditary?

Is Ocular Melanoma Hereditary?

The exact cause of ocular melanoma is not entirely understood until today. But it is assumed that it has a genetic component. It is also estimated that specific genes can trigger the susceptibility of a person to get ocular melanoma during his lifetime. These specific genes can be transferred from parents to their children.(1)

Ohio State University researchers have found hereditary cancer syndrome in their researches, which shows the predisposition of certain people to melanoma of the eye, accompanied by brain cancer, lung cancer, and other types of cancer. According to researchers, an inherited mutation in a gene called BAP1 causes this hereditary cancer syndrome. The research study suggests that mutations in BAP1 genes can cause hereditary uveal melanoma and other cancers in a few people.(2)

Uveal melanoma is a type of eye cancer involving the iris, ciliary body, or choroids, which are collectively termed as the uvea. These tumors develop from the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) that are present in the uvea to give color to the eye. It is the most common eye tumor found in adults.(2)

Can An Optometrist Detect Ocular Melanoma?

Yes, the optometrist can detect ocular melanoma during a routine eye examination. He usually detects vision-related problems. He can examine the eyes to check the vision and eye movement. But he can also detect tumors related to the eyes. Tumors are caught in a comprehensive eye examination. He may use a bright light along with magnifying glass to detect the presence of the tumors of ocular melanoma. He may dilate the eyes for this.(4) If he suspects eye tumors, he will refer the case to an ophthalmologist for confirming the diagnosis.(5)

The ophthalmologists will investigate the symptom and other medical histories. He will also evaluate enlarged blood vessels on the outside of the eye that can indicate a tumor inside the eye. He may also use special instruments to examine the internal parts of the eye for a tumor or other abnormality.(3) You may also apply drops in your eye to dilate the pupil before the use of following instruments-

Direct Ophthalmoscope- An ophthalmoscope (also called a direct ophthalmoscope) is a hand-held instrument that consists of a light and a small magnifying lens.(3)

Indirect Ophthalmoscope- He may also prefer an indirect ophthalmoscope, or a slit lamp may be used to get a more detailed image than with a direct ophthalmoscope. With either instrument, the doctor checks the eyes through a stronger magnified lens under a bright light. The slit lamp tends to have more magnification.(3)

Gonioscopy Lens- A gonioscopy lens is a special mirrored lens that is kept on the numbed cornea (the outer part of the eye). It can be utilized to find out tumor growth into areas of the eye, which is hard to approach.(3)


Ocular melanoma is estimated to be caused by genetic inheritance of genes from parents to their children. It is suggested that it occurs due to hereditary cancer syndrome. An optometrist can detect cancerous growth on the internal parts of the eye during a routine eye examination.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 8, 2022

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