Eye Cancer: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with eye cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

Cancer that starts in the eye is called primary eye cancer. It is an uncommon disease. Cancer that has spread to the eye from another place in the body, called secondary eye cancer, is more common than primary eye cancer. The statistics below are about primary eye cancer.

This year, an estimated 3,400 adults (1,890 men and 1,510 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with primary intraocular cancer. The risk for this disease increases with age.

Most new cases of primary intraocular cancer this year will be melanoma. The number of people diagnosed with uveal melanoma has remained constant for the past few decades. However, conjunctival melanoma has increased during this time. White people are much more likely to be diagnosed with eye melanoma than black people.

It is estimated that 390 deaths (210 men and 180 women) from primary intraocular cancer will occur this year.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for people with eye cancer is 80%. If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 85%. About 73% of people are diagnosed at this stage. However, survival rates depend on the size and location of the tumor and the type of cancer diagnosed.

The 5-year survival rate for eye melanoma is 82%. When melanoma does not spread outside the eye, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 85%. The 5-year survival rate for those with disease that has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or the regional lymph nodes is 71%. If the melanoma has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 13%. Only 2% to 3% of primary eye cancer is diagnosed at this late stage.

Iris melanoma is rare and does not usually spread. The 5-year relative survival rate for people with iris melanoma is more than 95%.

Choroidal melanoma is the most common type of intraocular melanoma. 

  • The 5-year relative survival rate for people with small choroidal melanoma is 84%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for people with medium choroidal melanoma is 68%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for people with large choroidal melanoma is 47%.

Ciliary body melanoma is rare. The 5-year relative survival rates are hard to determine for this type of melanoma, although it generally has a poorer prognosis than choroidal melanoma because it is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Prognosis is the chance of recovery.

Eye lymphoma. Because eye lymphoma is very uncommon, accurate survival statistics are difficult to find. Many people are diagnosed with eye lymphoma after it has already spread to the brain, which has a worse prognosis.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with eye cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2017 (January 2020); the ACS website (January 2020); the National Cancer Institute website (January 2020); and Houle, Virginie, et al. “AIRP Best Cases in Radiologic-Pathologic Correlation: Choroidal Melanoma,” RadioGraphics 2011 31:1231-236 (January 2020).

The next section in this guide is Medical IllustrationsIt offers drawings of body parts often affected by eye cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.