Eye Melanoma: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will be diagnosed with eye melanoma each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.  

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page

How many people are diagnosed with eye melanoma?

In 2023, an estimated 3,490 adults (1,900 men and 1,590 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, the number of people diagnosed with 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 430 deaths (240 men and 190 women) from primary intraocular cancer will occur in the United States in 2023. 

What is the survival rate for eye melanoma?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from eye melanoma. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with eye melanoma are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with eye melanoma are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

The 5-year relative survival rate for eye cancer in the U.S. is 80%. If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 85%. About 73% of people are diagnosed at this stage.

The survival rates for eye melanoma vary based on several factors. These include the stage of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works. Other factors that can affect outcomes include the type of eye melanoma diagnosed. 

The 5-year relative 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 relative survival rate for those with disease that has spread to surrounding tissues, organs, and/or the regional lymph nodes is 66%. If the melanoma has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 15%. 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 has a poorer prognosis than iris melanoma. Prognosis is the chance of recovery. 

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for eye melanoma every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how eye melanoma is diagnosed or treated from the last 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; the ACS website; the National Cancer Institute website; and the Ocular Melanoma Foundation website. Additional source was Houle, Virginie, et al. “AIRP Best Cases in Radiologic-Pathologic Correlation: Choroidal Melanoma,” RadioGraphics 2011 31:1231-236. (All sources accessed February 2023). 

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