Eye cancers can arise in different structures in the eye area, including the eyeball, the orbit (the bony walls around and behind the eye), the lacrimal glands (which produce tears), the eyelid, and the surrounding skin.
More than 2,600 eye or orbit cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. These are rare cancers that affect fewer than one in 100,000 Americans.
For melanoma of the eye, risk factors include too much sun exposure and certain inherited conditions—for example, dysplastic nevus syndrome, which leads to abnormal moles on the skin. For intraocular lymphoma, the main risk factor is a weakened immune system—for example, in patients with AIDS or patients who need to take immune-suppressing drugs after an organ transplant.
The chance of a cure in eye cancer patients is high when the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. Overall, the five-year survival rate for eye cancers is 83 percent.