Types of Eye Cancer

There are a variety of tumors that can exist in the eye’s tissues.

The Wills Eye Ocular Oncology Service is the largest eye cancer center in the United States and provides care for patients with common and rare cancers, many of which are serious life-threatening conditions.


Melanoma can occur in several regions of the eye including the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. These regions are collectively known as the uvea. Uveal melanoma is the leading primary eye cancer in adults. It typically arises in mid-life in both men and women with no environmental cause, except that it might be more common in arc welders. This tumor can arise from a pre-existent nevus or it can arise de novo, that is without a pre-existing lesion. Melanoma can strike with symptoms of blurred vision, flashing lights, floaters, and rarely pain. Many patients have no symptoms. Melanoma carries a risk for spread (metastasis) to the liver, lung, and skin, so lifelong systemic monitoring is advised. Early treatment of this eye cancer is important to protect from metastasis. Learn more.


Choroidal nevus is the most common intraocular tumor, occurring in about seven percent of adults. Most patients have no symptoms and these lesions are discovered on routine eye examination. Although it may be congenital, choroidal nevus is not typically observed in small children. It usually is first detected in adulthood and can be flat or minimally elevated and pigmented or nonpigmented (amelanotic). Learn more.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Conjuctival Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a cancer on the surface of the eye and is usually found in older Caucasian (white skinned) patients. It appears as a white or yellow-pink nodule on the eye surface in the front of the eye where it can easily be seen. Some believe that excessive exposure to sunlight from outdoor activities like sunbathing, golfing, fishing, and other sports can lead to this tumor. Large dilated red blood vessels leading to the tumor on the eye might also be visible. Learn more.


Conjunctival Squamous Cell Conjunctival lymphoma is a form of cancer but it is usually quite low grade and patients tend to do well with a slow course. Lymphoma is a cancer of the cells that fight infection (B- and T-cells) and can occur anywhere in the body. On the eye, conjunctival lymphoma appears as a painless pink tumor hidden up under the eyelids. In most cases, the patient does not have any other lymphoma in the body, but in about 20% another site is eventually found. Learn more.


Retinoblastoma is the leading eye cancer in infants and children. Early diagnosis and treatment is important for preventing metastasis and death of the child and additionally preserving the eye and vision. Other cancers can later occur in these children including pinealoblastoma, osteosarcoma, and melanoma. This pediatric cancer can be inherited from an affected parent who has retinoblastoma so it is important to examine all newborns of parents with retinoblastoma. There are approximately 250-300 children in the USA affected with this cancer each year and the Oncology Service at Wills Eye Hospital examines and provides treatment to 125 of these children. So nearly 50% of all children with retinoblastoma in the USA are managed at Wills Eye. Learn more.


Understanding Retinoblastoma