HealthWACH: Ocular melanoma

HealthWACH: Ocular melanoma

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Ocular melanoma, also known as uveal melanoma or choroidal melanoma, is an eye cancer diagnosed in about 2,000 adults every year in the United States. Like other melanomas, ocular melanoma starts in melanocytes, the cells which color the eye. It can involve any three areas of the eye: the iris, ciliary body, or the choroid. The iris is the colored part of the eye, which opens and closes to allow more or less light into the eye. The ciliary body is an eye muscle which controls the focus of the eye. And the choroid is a layer of tissue where pictures are projected. Those with iris melanomas generally have the best prognosis, and those with ciliary generally have the worst, even though it is the most common form of the disease.

Ocular melanoma tumors come from pigment cells that give color to the eyes. These types of cells, which also color skin and hair, are also responsible for forming moles. The exact cause is unknown. But it is known that exposure to ultraviolet rays, or UV rays, increases the risk of developing melanoma of the skin. People with fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes are at the greatest risk for developing it. Ocular Melanoma may be more common in those with atypical mole syndrome. This means they are at greater risk of developing melanoma of the skin and have over 100 moles on their body, some of which are abnormal in size.

Brachytherapy or internal radiation can treat ocular melanoma using a small disc shape shield. The shield can contain Iodine-125 or Palladiu,-103, two radioactive properties. The shield is attached to the outside surface of the eye and is left on the eye for a few days. The radioactive seeds go after the cancer. The treatment has a 95 percent success rate for patients whose tumors haven't spread. Brachytherapy may cause fewer side effects than external beam radiation and the treatment time is usually shorter. According to a JAMA study patients treated with brachytherapy had better vision when it came to driving and peripheral vision for up to 2 years following the treatment compared to enucleation, a surgical procedure involving removing part of the eye.