couple on a beach wearing hat and sunglasses

Sunglasses: Not Just a Fashion Statement

Most people are familiar with melanoma as a skin cancer, but melanoma can impact the eyes as well. Eye or ocular cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race. The most common type of eye cancer is intraocular melanoma, caused by the uncontrolled growth of pigment cells in the eye.

Symptoms can include blurred vision, floaters, decreased vision, and eye pain. But here's the good news: Eye melanoma is usually found during a routine eye exam. During an eye exam, it is possible to notice an unusual dark spot inside the eye, pigmented growth on the eye’s surface, or a change in the color of the iris. Depending on the size and location of the melanoma, further testing with ultrasound, imaging of the eye, or a biopsy may be recommended.

Treatment for eye melanoma

Treatment for eye melanoma typically involves surgical removal of the tumor. This can be done through lasers, cryotherapy, or surgery. Other treatments may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Depending on the size, location, and type of the tumor, more than one type of treatment may be recommended.

Take steps to protect your eyes

There is no surefire way to prevent eye cancer, says Brian Marr, MD, chief of the Division of Ocular Oncology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, but wearing sunglasses can reduce your risk.

  • Sunglasses block UV rays. UV exposure has been linked to eye cancer, and wearing sunglasses with UV protection also can reduce your risk of developing other eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Sunglasses reduce the amount of light that gets in your eyes. Wearing sunglasses can make being outdoors more comfortable by reducing the amount of light that gets into the eyes. Sunglasses reduce squinting, which can cause eye strain and wrinkles around the eyes.

Marr says to make sure you find a pair that has close to 100% UVA/UVB protection or is labeled 100% UV 400. Polarized sunglasses can provide extra comfort from the sun’s glare and reduce eye strain, but make sure the sunglasses also provide full UVA/UVB coverage.

So, find a fantastic pair of shades to put on, and even get a wide-brimmed hat that helps further protect your eyes from UV rays and eye cancer.


Brian Marr, MD, is the John Wilson Espy, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and chief of the Division of Ocular Oncology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He recently received the Vision of Hope Award from the Melanoma Research Foundation.