There are two different types of ocular melanocytes and melanomas. Conjunctival melanocytes are located on the surface of the eye and are exposed to visible light and UV radiation. Recently, epidemiological studies demonstrated that sunlight plays a definite role in the occurrence of conjunctival melanoma, as it does in cutaneous melanoma. Uveal melanocytes consist of the iridal melanocytes, which are exposed to visible light and UV radiation; and the ciliary body melanocytes and choroidal melanocytes, which are not exposed to light radiation. Epidemiological studies demonstrated that sunlight may play a role in the occurrence of iridal melanoma, but may not be a major factor in the etiology of ciliary body and choroidal melanomas. Uveal melanocytes differ from epidermal melanocytes in that epidermal melanocytes respond to UV radiation and skin color becomes darker after exposure to sunlight; but uveal melanocytes do not respond to UV radiation and the iris color remains stable after exposure to sunlight. Recently, in vitro studies indicate that this phenomenon is determined both by cellular factors and environmental factors.
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Vol. 81 • No. 3