Ocular tumors are tumors that form inside the eye. They often grow on the iris, but they can also be found on the eyelids. Being such a sensitive location, early detection and treatment are crucial. What’s difficult is that eye tumors rarely show symptoms early on. It’s not until the tumor grows that changes in vision occur. Because of this, seeing an ophthalmologist continues to be your best defense against progressive cancer.
Knowing if you are at risk for ocular tumors is important. Being at risk does not mean you will develop eye cancer, but it does make you more likely than someone who is not at risk. Let’s explore the different types of ocular tumors and who is most impacted by them.
Types of Ocular Tumors
The main types of eye cancer include:
Melanoma. Melanoma is the most common type of intraocular cancer in adults. Tumors form when the cells grow uncontrollably.
Intraocular lymphoma. This condition is rare and difficult to diagnose. It occurs when lymphoma forms in the eyeball.
Retinoblastoma. This is a rare form of childhood eye cancer.
Hemangioma. This is a benign vascular tumor that originates either in the choroid or the retina, and may cause bleeding or exudation.
Conjunctival melanoma. A form of melanoma, this occurs when a tumor grows in the conjunctiva. It can spread to the lymph nodes if not treated.
Eyelid carcinoma. A type of skin cancer, an eyelid carcinoma is a tumor that must be removed.
Lacrimal gland tumor. This type of tumor forms in the tear glands. It can be benign or malignant.
Who is Most at Risk for Ocular Tumors?
Different cancers have different risk factors. Let’s explore the most general risk factors for developing all types of ocular tumors, according to the American Cancer Society.
People over the age of 50. With the exception of retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer, most ocular tumors are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. Eye melanomas are also slightly more common in men than women.
Caucasians. Ocular cancer is more common in Caucasians than African Americans or Asian Americans.
People with light eye color. People with light eye colors, such as blue, green and grey, are more likely to develop ocular tumors than people with dark eyes.
People with atypical moles. Some people have large numbers of moles on their skin that tend to be irregularly shaped. These individuals have a greater risk for developing eye melanomas.
People with inherited conditions. Some conditions make people more likely to develop ocular tumors, including BAP1 cancer syndrome and having abnormal brown spots on the uvea.
Though it has not been proven, it’s also possible that sun exposure and certain occupations (i.e., farmers, welders, fishermen) can raise the risk for eye cancer.
The best ways to protect your eyes are by eating a healthy diet, managing your weight and not smoking. Also, visit your eye doctor regularly. Many of the above cancers can be successfully treated if they are caught early.