Iris melanoma: risk factors for metastasis in 169 consecutive patients

Ophthalmology. 2001 Jan;108(1):172-8. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(00)00449-8.


Objective: To identify risk factors that predict distant metastases of iris malignant melanoma.

Design: Retrospective case series.

Participants: The participants included 169 consecutive patients with microscopically confirmed iris malignant melanoma managed on the Oncology Service at Wills Eye Hospital between 1974 and 1999.

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measure was the development of distant tumor metastasis. Cox proportional regression models were used to calculate the risk of eventual metastatic spread.

Results: Of 1054 patients referred with suspicious iris melanocytic tumors (rule out malignant melanoma) over a 25-year period, 169 patients (16%) had microscopically proven iris melanoma, and the remainder (84%) had clinically diagnosed iris nevus. Of the patients with iris melanoma, the mean age at the time of diagnosis was 43 years (median, 45 years; range, 1-90 years). All patients were Caucasian. The mean tumor base was 6 mm (median, 5 mm; range, 1-17 mm), and mean tumor thickness was 2 mm (median, 2 mm; range, 1-4 mm). The mean number of clock hours of tumor involvement in the iris was four, tumor seeding on the iris was four, and tumor seeding into the anterior chamber angle was four. Extraocular extension was present in 10 eyes (6%). The tumor management consisted of local resection (iridectomy, iridocyclectomy, or iridocyclogoniectomy) in 102 patients (60%), enucleation in 51 (30%), plaque radiotherapy in 9 (5%), and observation in 7 patients (4%). Metastasis developed in nine patients (5%). Using Kaplan-Meier life table analysis, metastasis was found in 3% of patients at 5 years, 5% at 10 years, and 10% at 20 years. The clinical factors at initial evaluation predictive of eventual metastasis from iris melanoma included increasing age at diagnosis (P = 0.03), elevated intraocular pressure (P = 0.03), posterior tumor margin at angle or iris root (versus midzone) (P = 0.02), extraocular extension (P: = 0.02), and prior surgical treatment of the tumor elsewhere before referral (versus observation) (P = 0.006). The method of management (resection, radiotherapy, or enucleation) did not have an impact on metastasis.

Conclusions: Microscopically confirmed iris melanoma demonstrates distant metastasis in 5% of patients at 10 years follow-up. Metastases are more likely to develop in those patients who are older and show tumor features of iris root/angle location with elevated intraocular pressure and extraocular extension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Iris Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Iris Neoplasms / therapy
  • Life Tables
  • Male
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors