Can We Prevent Eye Cancer?

Just the word cancer invokes frightening images of hospital beds and weeping loved ones. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is particularly frightening. But what about other cancers? You can lower your risk for some cancers, but others occur regardless of what lifestyle changes you might make.

Eye cancer is particularly insidious. Most research today shows no specific way to prevent cancer of the eye. You can still take steps, however, to take care of your eyes and keep them as healthy as possible.

Know Your Risk Factors

People with blue eyes and light skin are at a higher risk for eye cancer. There also appears to be a link between UV radiation and cancers of the eye, so people who live in regions that receive more sunlight should take extra precautions. Ocular lymphomas or melanomas can also have a genetic link, so check your family tree to see if you have a predisposition.

Keep Your Eyes Safe

One of your best bets for protecting your eyes from cancer will be to take care of the one risk factor you can control – how much UV radiation your eyes get. Just like you would protect your skin by slathering on sunblock every time you go outside, make sure your eyes are protected by a quality pair of sunglasses. Look for a pair that blocks both UVA and UVB rays for the best protection.

Government recommendations for appropriate coverage are 99 percent of UVA rays and 95 percent of UVB. You don’t have to spend a fortune for sunglasses that meet these recommendations – inexpensive glasses that you can purchase at your local drugstore often will meet these guidelines. The best styles are wraparounds or the large, oversized lenses that you often see celebrities wearing. These provide the best coverage.

When you are spending time in the sun, it is also good practice to wear a hat with a wide brim, like a baseball cap or one with a nice floppy style. This protects your eyes and the delicate skin around them from rays that might sneak in from above. Don’t just think that eye protection is only for sunny days either. Rays can sneak through cloud cover, and you should be especially wary of snowy days, as you are exposed from below as well as above.

Stay Healthy Overall

While this can seem like a tall order, maintaining a good immune system is going to be your best bet against fighting cancer and other diseases, including diseases of the eye. Practice good nutrition habits, get a good amount of sleep and exercise regularly. Be sure to have regular appointments with an optometrist or ophthalmologist so that any conditions that do develop can be caught and treated promptly.

Barbara O’Brien