Understanding Eye Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Know about eye cancer

What is Eye Cancer?

Eye cancer is a rare but debilitating disorder. Eye cancer can be primary, which means it begins in the eye, or secondary, which spreads to the eye from elsewhere in the body.

Typically eye cancer is uncommon. The two most common forms of eye cancer are intraocular melanoma and lymphoma. Retinoblastoma is the most common intraocular tumor is the most common tumor in childhood.


Types of eye cancers

types of eye cancer

Eye cancer can start in different parts of the eyes. It can affect either the outer part of the eye (extraocular cancer) or the eyeball (intraocular cancer).

  Intraocular cancers

Just like other cancers, both environmental and genetic factors are major players in development of the eye cancer. Several prevalent primary forms of intraocular cancer include:

  • Melanoma:

    The most frequent type of eye cancer, ocular melanoma, arises from melanocytes in the eyes. Although it can occur anywhere in the eye, ocular melanoma most commonly occurs in the eyeball’s middle layer (uvea) which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. The uvea is located behind the white layer of the eye (sclera) and houses the iris (the colored portion of the eye). Melanoma in the eye develops in the uvea (uveal melanoma) and rarely in the conjunctiva (conjunctival melanoma).

      Symptoms of Melanoma

    Melanoma of the eye can show a variety of symptoms, including impaired or distorted vision, the formation of black spots on the iris (the colored area of the eye), pain or discomfort in the eye, and, in some circumstances, a visible dark mass or patch on the surface of the eye.

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the eyes is a kind of cancer that begins in the lymphocytes, which are white blood cells found in the eye tissues. This disorder can cause these cells to develop abnormally, resulting in tumors in and around the eyes.

      Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the eyes can show us a variety of symptoms. These include redness, swelling, or irritation of the eyes, blurred or diminished vision, and FB changes to light. Affected individuals may also feel eye pain or discomfort, floaters, or the presence of a visible lump or tumor on the eyelid or within the eye.

  • Retinoblastoma:

    Retinoblastoma is a rare and potentially fatal cancer that develops in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. This cancer primarily affects young children, with the majority of cases occurring in children under the age of five. Retinoblastoma is heritable, which means that it can be passed down from parent to child because of genetic abnormalities.

      Symptoms of Retinoblastoma

    When light is directed into the eye, it frequently manifests as a white or pinkish glow in the pupil, known as “cat’s eye reflex” or “leukocoria.” Other symptoms include crossed or misaligned eyes, poor vision, redness, and swelling of the eye. Early detection and treatment are essential for preserving the child’s vision and overall health.

  • Medulloepithelioma:

    Medulloepithelioma of the eye is a rare. It is an embryonal neuroectodermal derived tumor with an intraocular tumor for non-pigmented ciliary epithelium. This form of tumor is more common in youngsters and can cause a variety of vision-related symptoms and consequences. Medulloepithelioma is hypothesized to develop from embryonic tissue in the eye.

      Symptoms of Medulloepithelioma

    Blurred or impaired vision, changes in the color or appearance of the iris, pupil irregularities, eye pain or discomfort, and visible swelling or redness of the eye are the most common symptoms. Additionally, affected individuals might experience squinting, sensitivity to light, or a visible mass or growth within the eye.

Secondary intraocular cancers are ones that begin in other parts of the body and then metastasize or spread to the eye. These cancers, originate elsewhere and can infect the tissues and structures of the eye, making detection and therapy difficult. Breast cancer and lung cancer are the two most common types of cancer that can affect the eyes. Most of them affect the eyeball or Uvea of the eyes.


Causes of Eye Cancer

Anything that can be the major cause of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Eye cancer can develop as a result of a number of causes, including genetic predisposition, environmental exposures, and certain medical disorders. While the precise causes differ, the following risk factors have been identified:

  1. Ultra Violet Rays:

    Prolonged and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a major risk factor for developing eye cancer, notably melanoma. UV-protective sunglasses and hats can help mitigate this danger.

  2. Genetic Mutation:

    Certain genetic mutations and hereditary diseases can raise the risk of getting eye cancer. Individuals with a family history of retinoblastoma, are at increased risk. Those with a family history of cancer may benefit from genetic testing and counseling.

  3. Ocular Melanocytosis:

    It is characterized by an increase in pigmented cells in the eye, which increases the risk of developing uveal melanoma, a type of intraocular cancer.

  4. Age:

    The risk of developing eye cancer increases with age. Some forms, such as uveal melanoma, are more common in adults.

  5. Immune Suppression:

    People with compromised immune systems, such as those who have had organ transplants or who have HIV/AIDS, are more likely to acquire eye cancer.

  6. Genetic disorders:

    Genetic disorders such as neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and Li-Fraumeni syndrome have been linked to an elevated risk of some eye malignancies.

  7. Chemical Exposure:

    Long-term exposure to certain chemicals, such as those used in the production of plastics, textiles, or metal, may contribute to an increased risk of eye cancer.

  8. Eye problems:

    Some pre-malignant eye problems such as uveitis or ocular surface lesions may increase the chance of developing conjunctival or intraocular malignancy.

  9. Gender and Race:

    Certain kinds of eye cancer, such as conjunctival melanoma, have been found to be more prevalent in specific genders or racial/ethnic groups.


Treatment of Eye Cancer

The treatment of eye cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. To get the best treatment one must get a proper diagnosis under the supervision of an expert ophthalmologist who can guide you in the better way with the benefits and side-effects of each treatment. Some of the treatments available for eye cancer are as follows:

  1. Surgery:

    Surgical removal of the tumor is a common treatment for many types of eye cancer. The type of surgery depends on the location, spreading speed of the tumor, and patient overall health status.

  2. Radiation Therapy:

    Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by using high-energy X-rays. Radiation therapy, including external beam radiation or plaque brachytherapy, is often used to target and destroy cancer cells.

  3. Laser Therapy:

    Laser treatment uses concentrated light beams to target and kill malignant cells. The risk is proportional to the size and location of the tumor.

  4. Chemotherapy:

    The treatment uses powerful drugs to target and kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. These drugs have side effects on the body so in rarely used for treating eye cancer.

  book appointment

How to reduce the risk of developing eye cancer


While the primary origins of eye cancer remain unknown, certain factors can contribute to minimizing the likelihood of its occurrence. The prominent among them is the reduced exposure to UV light. Using eye gears that can block both UVA and UVB rays can somewhat reduce the development of eye cancer that can be due to UV rays. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle along with an adequate amount of exercise and sleep can help you reduce your risk of developing fatal diseases such as eye cancer.



Eye cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects a lesser proportion of the population than other cancer forms. However, it is critical to remain vigilant and take preventive actions to reduce potential risk factors connected with its development. Following a diagnosis, prompt and proper treatment is critical for attaining the best possible health outcomes.

India has a large number of specialized eye cancer experts. Cities such as Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai are home to some of the best cancer hospitals for eye-related treatments. The MM Joshi Eye Institute stands as the best eye hospital in North Karnataka, with top-tier amenities and an experienced team of doctors dedicated to providing careful eye treatment for eye cancer.


  • What are the first signs of eye cancer?

    The early signs of eye cancer include Bulging of one eye, vision loss, pain, raised lumps blurred vision, appearance changes, eyelid or eye region lumps, seeing spots or wavy lines, blinkered vision, dark spot growth on the iris, and eye irritation. If you experience any of such symptoms consult an eye specialist.

  • Is cancer of the eye curable?

    Curability of eye cancer is determined by a number of factors, including the type, stage, and treatment options. Early detection and treatment improve the odds of a successful outcome.

  • How fast can eye cancer spread?

    The rate at which eye cancer spreads can vary depending on the aggressiveness of the tumor. Some types of eye cancer might grow and spread slowly over time, while others can spread quickly. For successful management and improved outcomes, early detection and treatment are important.

  • Is it painful to have eye cancer?

    Pain is rare in eye cancer. The main problem is reduced vision. However, some individuals can feel pain when the tumor grows out of the eyes.