Ocular Melanoma

The development of the skin melanoma we are the most familiar with is usually attributed to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. And with good reason. Those dangerous rays are its primary cause; and by a large margin.

However, not every type of melanoma’s origins fall under the purview of our sun. Ocular melanoma, an affliction almost always confined to adults, is one such exception. Although, as with skin melanoma, pale-toned (and blue-eyed) individuals, and those with atypical mole syndrome, are its most frequent victims.

What is Ocular Melanoma?

Ocular melanoma (Officially, Uveal melanoma) is a rare form of eye cancer. It’s a belligerent cancer that can develop anywhere within a trio of sections inside the eye, (Iris, ciliary body, choroid or posterior uvea). Except for iris melanoma it’s difficult to detect and, unless highly-advanced, it’s usually painless.

This picture shows an example of Ocular Melanoma in the iris:

Unfortunately, unlike its skin melanoma cousin, most ocular melanomas don’t give advanced notice of their arrivals.

Medical science has yet to peg down the reason(s) for ocular melanoma’s existence; nor the catalyst(s) that trigger it. And even though new techniques are continually being developed to fight it, it will still become fatal to half of those whom it impacts.

Diagnosing Ocular Melanoma

Of the three sections of the eye mentioned above, only melanoma of the iris can be self-detected. The other types can be detected by a routine eye exam. As a result, ophthalmologists recommend scheduling an eye exam annually.

As eyes are very sensitive areas, it’s understandable that, initially, many people may find the idea of an ocular melanoma exam undesirable. However, there is no need for that.

Please note that (excluding the need for a biopsy, or an injection of highlighting dye into the arm) nearly all the tools an ophthalmologist has at his or her disposal for use in diagnosing this disease are non-invasive. Biopsies are very uncommon and rarely ordered.

A diagram of the eye: 

*Additional source articles: Ocularmelanoma.org, Cancer.org, Aao.org

*To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

Normal Moles vs. Atypical Moles

When a person begins educating him or herself about melanoma, some of the first relevant information they’ll come across will be on moles. They’re very important, as 90% of all melanomas begin on the skin and pretty much everyone has them.

Although you’ve surely seen them countless times, you may not be aware that there are two types: normal moles, and atypical moles. (Officially, dysplastic nevi).

Atypical moles have a much greater chance to develop into melanoma than do normal moles. The odds are about 1 in 100 with the former; yet fewer than 1 in 3,000 with the latter. Those who have an atypical mole(s) carry a stronger risk of melanoma. Incidentally, the appearance of hair on any mole is medically irrelevant. It carries no weight with regard to an increased risk of skin cancer.

No one should ever try to tell the two apart without a biopsy; as even a dermatologist cannot be certain without one. However, they do have some distinguishing characteristics that (in general) helps to tell them apart.

For instance, normal moles maintain the same color (most often brown), are round, oval, and sometimes domed in shape. They have well-defined borders and are less than a quarter-inch wide.

These are two examples of normal moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

Atypical moles are wider than a quarter-inch and may be multi-colored (brown or pink). They have uneven borders and an irregular shape. Raised dysplastic nevi display a “fried egg” look.

These are two examples of atypical moles, both raised and flat:

 

 

 

 

One thing they both do have in common is that their surface areas are usually smooth or cauliflower in texture.

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome

Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome is a disorder that is passed along through our genes. If any close relatives (immediate family but also including grandparents, uncles and aunts) have or have had melanoma and if a large number of atypical moles are present, there’s a high risk of developing the disease.

While monthly self-examination is important for every person of either gender, all races and skin tones, it’s even more vital to those with Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome.

These is an example of Familial Atypical Mole Syndrome:

 

 

 

*Additional source articles: Cancer.gov, Emedicine.medscape.com

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

 

 

 

 

 

Appearance Limitations in the Self-Detection of Melanoma

You’re probably already familiar with the saying, looks can be deceiving. Well, that old proverb becomes somewhat more tangible when it’s applied to the subject of melanoma.

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

That question doesn’t really have an easy answer. It’s somewhat akin to being asked to describe a typical Rorschach ink blot.

The truth is that melanomas can appear with a variety of looks. For instance, when several melanoma patients were asked to describe theirs, a wide assortment of answers were given. They can show up in different shapes, colors and textures. They may itch or not; secrete fluids or not. Some even match the color of the skin, while others look like a normal mole.

In fact, some moles that look awful can actually be harmless. And some that look harmless might turn out to be cancerous.

For example, below are some photographs to help illustrate. The one on the left seems to be little more than the result of an injury, or maybe nail fungus. The patient had it checked out and it was indeed melanoma. The photo on the right depicts an unsightly, even frightening-looking skin blemish. Yet, it was totally benign.

 

 

 

 

So How do I Know Which Skin Changes to Bring to My Doctor’s Attention?

This one’s easy. You don’t try and distinguish whether a skin issue is malignant or benign on your own. You would want to bring any new moles, blemishes or changes to existing moles to the attention of your dermatologist. Let them make the determination.

Out of Sight, but Keep in Mind…

There is no question that the vast majority of melanomas develop, and are easily spotted, on the skin. And most often by the patient first, before his or her doctor does. However, up to 10% of them are initially discovered in one or more of our other organs (skin is the body’s largest organ) or in a lymph node(s); with minimal to no outwardly visible mark or blemish.

There are dermatologists who theorize that these are due to melanomas that were not totally excised. Or “regression”; the belief that some melanoma cells made it into the bloodstream before the body’s natural defenses destroyed the cells that were on the skin. In other words, (non-medical jargon), the patient’s immune system closed the barn door after the horses had gotten out.

The photo below is one example of a melanoma with a “partial regression”

 

 

 

 

To visit our websites, please click:  skincheck.org and/or melanomaeducation.net

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma