Melanoma is a form of cancer that occurs in melanocytes- the cells which impart color to your skin, hair and eyes. When this type of melanoma occurs in the eyes it is known as ocular melanoma. Ocular melanoma is a rare or unique cancer of the eyes. It may not produce any signs and symptoms at the beginning and hence, is difficult to diagnose in the initial stages. This makes it difficult to treat.(1)(2)
Some of the eye cancers develop on the eye surface and eyelid. These ones are quite like the melanomas of skin on other parts of your body. however, ocular melanoma may develop inside the eye as well.(1)
Who Is At Risk For Ocular Melanoma?
Some factors may put you at an increased risk of developing ocular melanoma. These factors may include-
Having A Light-Colored Eye- Those having light-colored eyes like those with green or blue color – have an increased probability of acquiring ocular melanoma.
Being White- People belonging to the white race are further susceptible to developing melanoma than people belonging to other races. Genetic predisposition could be a factor responsible for this.
Age Factor- As your age increases, you are at an elevated chance of acquiring ocular melanoma.
Other Inherited Skin Conditions- People having inherited skin disorders are further susceptible to developing ocular melanoma. Similarly, people affected by ocular melanocytosis also have an elevated probability of acquiring ocular melanoma.
An Exposure To UV Rays- Some studies suggest that the harsh sunlight or the light from tanning beds can lead to strong UV exposure which can be responsible for ocular melanoma.
Genetic Changes- Some genes that are passed to the children by their parents may elevate the children’s chances of acquiring melanoma.
Is There A Blood Test For Ocular Melanoma?
A blood test cannot diagnose ocular melanoma. However, a blood test can be done to evaluate the extent of the spread of ocular melanoma (metastasis) to other parts of the body.(3) There are methods to diagnose ocular melanoma. Your doctor may order a few tests to diagnose ocular melanoma. These tests may include-
A Thorough Eye Examination- An ophthalmologist will examine your eyes thoroughly. He will look out for any expanded blood vessels which might be suggestive of a tumor inside the eye. He will also examine your internal eye.
USG Of The Eye- High-frequency sound waves is used to produce eye images in this method.
An Angiogram- For an angiogram of the eye, a colored dye is infused in one of your veins in the arm. The dye then travels to your eye through blood circulation. A camera then takes pictures of your eye, detecting any abnormality in the eye.
Optic Coherence Tomography- This method is an imaging process which takes pictures of some parts of the retina and the uveal tract
Biopsy- A sample of the eye tissue is removed and sent to the lab for further evaluation in this method. Usually, a biopsy is not needed to confirm an ocular melanoma.(3)
Some other tests may be performed to determine whether the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). These tests may consist of-
- Blood tests
- X-ray chest
- A CT scan or a computerized tomography
- An MRI or a magnetic resonance imaging
- A USG or ultrasonography of the abdomen
- A PET scan or positron emission tomography(3)
Ocular melanoma is a very rare kind of eye cancer. The accurate reason for ocular melanoma is not yet known however, some factors may increase your probability of developing this condition. While most of the factors are unavoidable, a couple of them can be avoided and the danger of acquiring this condition can be reduced.