Ocular Melanoma Causes

As the team of choice for the treatment of ocular melanoma in San Diego, California Retina Associates is often asked what causes the cancer. Truthfully, our experts don’t know exactly why ocular melanoma develops. We have theories, but ocular melanoma is a mystery in many ways. What we do know is how to identify signs of the cancer in its early stages and start treatment quickly to prevent it from stealing precious eyesight.

DNA Errors in Cells

Like other cancers, ocular melanoma involves abnormal cell growth.

Melanoma develops in the cells that produce pigment, or color, called melanocytes. Many cases of melanoma affect the cells that are responsible for giving the skin its coloring. But ocular melanoma occurs in the cells that give the eyes their color. Most cases of ocular melanoma affect the uvea, or the vascular layer of the eye sandwiched between the retina and the white of the eye that contains the choroid.

At its core, melanoma occurs when the DNA of healthy eye cells develop errors. These errors cause the cells to grow and multiple uncontrollably. Instead of dying as they normally would, the mutated cells collect and form a melanoma.

Possible Genetic Link

Experts believe that genetic factors can play a role in cells becoming cancerous. Individuals that carry a certain gene that makes them predisposed to cancer are at a higher risk of developing the cancer than those that do not carry the gene.

Does Sun Damage Lead to Ocular Melanoma?

Subcutaneous melanoma, or melanoma of the cells that give the skin its pigment, has been linked to sun damage from natural sunlight or artificial light (like that used in tanning beds). However, there is not an overwhelming body of research to show that sun exposure can cause ocular melanoma. Some studies indicate that UV light can increase the risk, but this is not conclusive.

Early Diagnosis and Treatment Intervention

When ocular melanoma is caught in its early stages and treated, the outlook is very good. Although ocular melanoma cannot be completely cured, tumors can be treated with radiation or surgically removed. Because early detection and treatment is important, California Retina Associates encourages all patients to be aware of the symptoms of ocular melanoma, including blurry vision or sudden loss of vision, floaters or flashes of light or a growing dark spot on the eye’s iris.

On the other hand, when ocular melanoma is not caught early, it can jeopardize not only the eyes but other areas of the body. In about half of all people that develop ocular melanoma, the cancer spreads to other organs, particularly the liver, lungs and bones. In those cases, the prognosis can be poor.

Talk to Our Ocular Melanoma Treatment Team

If you have been diagnosed with ocular melanoma or the disease runs in your family, the team at California Retina Associates can help. We offer three offices throughout San Diego County and beyond to treat eye cancer and prevent it from metastasizing to other areas of the body.

Call or email California Retina Associates today to make an appointment at our Chula Vista, La Mesa or El Centro offices.