There is a plethora of information out there about the dangers of contracting skin cancer from unprotected exposure to UVR rays, including the sun and those received from tanning beds. In addition, the recent photographs of Kathleen Sebelius circulating on the web after she had her basal cell carcinoma removed drew attention to skin and eye cancer.
In the case of Kathleen Sebelius, the basel cell was on her forehead near her eye. Photographs of her red and swollen eye circulated on the web and prompted speculation that she had melanoma of the eye. She does not.
Her red and swollen eye was the result of bruising to the forehead when the basal cell carcinoma was removed.
Melanoma of the eye is like other melanoma and skin cancers as it may be the direct result of UVR exposure.
However, unlike melanoma found on the skin, melanoma of the eye may not have any early symptoms.
These melanomas are found increasingly as people age, so a regular eye exam is the best way to detect the disease, especially if you have already had a skin cancer.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist immediately:
o Red, painful eye
o Small defect on the iris or conjunctiva (the mucous membrane protecting the ball of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids)
o Change in the color of the iris
o Poor vision in one eye
o Bulging eyes
As is true for any cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the better chance for survival.
Your eyes like your skin, should be protected from UVR from the day you are born. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of sunglasses for infants and children.
Sunglasses should be worn by people of all ages to protect the eyes when outside. Close-fitting, wraparound glasses offer the best protection. Further, a hat with a three-inch brim blocks direct UVR rays from your eyes.