Skip To The Main Content

Eye Cancer Introduction

People with eye cancer now have more treatment choices and more hope for survival than ever before. Doctors keep finding new treatments for eye cancer and ways to help people with eye cancer have better lives.

What is cancer of the eye?

Eye cancer is a very rare kind of cancer that starts somewhere in or on the eye (on the surface, on the iris, or within the eye beneath the retina) or in the skin of cells around the eye (the eyelid). Because it is so rare, it is best for a person diagnosed with eye cancer to seek treatment from someone who specializes in this field. A person can ask their doctor to refer them to an eye cancer specialist.


Anatomy of the Human Eye

Anatomy of the eye

The eye is an organ that collects light and sends it to the brain. The brain turns this light from the eye into pictures that allow people to see. The eye is made up of different parts.

The eyelids keep the eyes moist and shield them from light. The conjunctiva is a membrane that covers the eyeball and lets the eyelid slide easily over the eye without irritating it. The cornea covers and protects the iris, which is the colored part of the front of the eye. The retina lines the inside of the eye and acts almost like film in a camera, doing the work that helps people to see.

The retina has a layer of blood vessels under it called the choroid. The choroid feeds the retina. It also has cells in it called melanocytes. These cells can sometimes grow into a malignant melanoma.

The choroid is one part of a group of structures called the uvea. The other parts are the iris and the ciliary body, which helps to adjust the size of the pupil (the opening in the center of the iris). Melanomas may also grow in these other parts of the uvea as well.

Types of eye cancer

There are different kinds of eye cancers. Below are some of the places near or on the eye where cancers can grow and the types that may be present on each one of these places:

  • Eyelid tumors. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of eyelid cancer. It can be removed with surgery. Other types of eyelid tumors include squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

  • Tumors that grow on the surface of the eye (conjunctival tumors). Conjunctival tumors include squamous carcinomas, malignant melanomas, and lymphomas.

  • Tumors that grow in the colored part of the eye or iris tumors. These tumors include melanomas.

  • Choroid tumors. These are tumors that grow in the layer of blood vessels that support the retina. They include melanoma, choroidal nevus, and choroidal osteoma. 

  • Retinoblastoma. This is a cancer of the eye that affects children. It is extremely rare in adults.


MetroWest Medical Center provides advanced medicine and personalized care, right here in your community.

Click here to see our services 


The Center for Heart & Vascular Services. At the forefront of heart and vascular disease for more than 25 years.

Learn More