Is Choroidal Nevus Cancerous?

Choroidal nevus is the most common intraocular tumor, occurring in about 7% of adults. A choroidal nevus is not cancer (benign), but it can develop into cancer over time. If a choroidal nevus becomes cancerous, it is called choroidal melanoma. Choroidal nevus is a congenital condition. This means you were born with genes that make a nevus develop. The chances of a nevus transforming into a malignancy are low (about 1 in 500).

A nevus is a commonly occurring growth composed of a cluster of cells called melanocytes, the cells that make the pigment in skin, hair and eyes. A single nevus or multiple nevi (the plural of nevus) can develop under the retina, the specialized nerve tissue lining the back of the eye that detects light and color. Behind the retina is the choroid, a layer of blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the eye. Nevi that develop in this layer are choroidal nevi. Although these are usually harmless, they should be monitored regularly because they have the potential to evolve into an aggressive melanoma.

How is a choroidal nevus diagnosed?

Most patients have no symptoms. Ophthalmologists often discover a nevus during a routine eye exam. Your ophthalmologist will photograph the nevus at each exam and compare the new image to any previous ones to track any changes in its appearance. Changes in the size or shape of the nevus suggest that it should be examined more closely. Additional tests include:

Ultrasound: An imaging test in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound), are bounced off the internal tissues of the eye, to create an image of the inside of the eye.

Fluorescein Angiography: A examination of the blood vessels and the flow of blood inside the eye.

Ocular Coherence Tomography: An imaging test that uses light waves to detect swelling or fluid beneath the retina.

Most choroidal nevi do not require treatment. In rare cases, a nevus on the outer wall of the eye may be removed with surgery.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment with our doctors, contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or website

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