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Cancers that happen in and around the eye are very rare. The most common type of eye cancer that happens in adults is ocular melanoma, sometimes known as intraocular melanoma. This is when melanoma forms inside the eye or just around the eyelid.
Retinoblastomas are the most common type of eye cancer found in children. Unfortunately, there is not much research on ways to prevent this type of eye cancer. However, it is extremely rare.
What is eye cancer?
Eye cancer is any cancer that starts inside the eye. Eye cancer is also called intraocular cancer (intra means inside and ocular means eye). Cancer that starts in the eye is called primary intraocular cancer. If you have cancer that started in another part of the body and it spreads to the eye, it is called secondary intraocular cancer. Secondary intraocular cancer is not actually eye cancer. If you have lung cancer, for example, and it spreads to the eye, it is still lung cancer.
There are different types of eye cancer:
- Intraocular melanoma (melanoma that starts in the eye)
- Primary intraocular lymphoma
What is eyelid cancer?
Eyelid cancer is different from eye cancer because it occurs in the skin, not in the eye itself. These are the most common types of cancer that occur in the eyelid:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Sebaceous carcinoma
- Ocular melanoma (melanoma that starts around the eye or on the inside of the eyelid)
Can I prevent eye cancer and eyelid cancer?
We know that melanoma of the skin can be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun. Doctors believe the same can be done to help prevent ocular and intraocular melanoma.
By wearing sunglasses with the right protection, you can help lower your risk of getting melanoma of the eye. Look for sunglasses with these features:
- 100% UVA and UVB protection
- Wraparound lenses, or lenses that cover a large area around your eyes
People with fair skin or blue, green, or other light-colored eyes are at the most risk for melanoma. Right now, we do not know the cause or ways to prevent the other three types of eye cancer.
What are the symptoms of eye and eyelid cancer?
Eye cancer and eyelid cancer may have these symptoms:
- Shadows, flashes of light, or lines in your vision
- Blurry vision
- A dark patch in your eye that gets bigger
- Partial or total loss of vision
- A lump in or around your eye that gets bigger
These symptoms can also be a sign of other health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor (also called an ophthalmologist). They will do an eye exam and see if there is anything of concern.
Cancer is easier to treat when found early. Talk with your doctor if you have any changes in your body that worry you.