Do you have a strange mole on the eye? Australian doctors advise checking to avoid fatal melanoma. As a preventative measure against skin cancer, Australians are regularly advised to wear protective clothing and get moles examined, but doctors are now warning of a new, more dangerous kind of melanoma.
Susan Vine, a resident of Queensland, went to the doctor at the age of 37 for treatment of her blurred eyesight and headaches. According to Vine's statement to 9News, "I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma of the iris, and the following Wednesday my eye was removed."
"I couldn't believe it; I'd always had a big freckle on my eye, and now it was a huge melanoma.
Melanoma of the eye is a very rare type of cancer that only affects 5 out of every million adults. Despite its rarity, it is by far the most prevalent primary eye cancer in adults. When cancer is said to be "primary," it signifies that it originated in that location (the eye) and did not spread there from another part of the body.
Most of the time, this cancer starts in the uveal tract, which is a part of the eye. The uveal tract is the typically pigmented layer of cells and blood vessels found just underneath the white of the eye (sclera).
No one knows why eye melanomas happen. People with lighter eye colour and those born with certain growths in or on the eye (nevi or moles) are at a higher risk for developing ocular melanoma.
Melanoma of the eye occurs when mutations occur in the DNA of the eye's pigment cells. Due to these defects, cell proliferation becomes uncontrolled. Melanomas form when the mutated cells gather in or on the eye.
A higher chance of acquiring melanoma is associated with several conditions. For instance:
• Long-term exposure to sunlight or tanning beds can develop eye melanoma (conjunctival melanoma)
• Light-eyed (blue or green eyes)
• People who are above the ages of 40.
• A mole on or in the eye; having eyelids with unusual skin pigmentation; having enhanced pigmentation on the uvea.
Cancer Council Australia estimates that 400 Australians were diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2022.
According to ophthalmologist Dr. Bill Glasson, ocular melanoma is one of the "nastiest tumours" that can develop in the eye. In a five-year time, frame, the survival rate is only 50%.
Glasson told 9News, "If we pick them up early, they are very treatable, but if we pick them up late you can lose your eye or your life."
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