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Year : 1991  |  Volume : 39  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 168-169

Neoplasms of the limbus

Govt. Ophthalmic Hospital and Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Madras, India

Correspondence Address:
P P Sunderraj
17 Alagappa Lay-out, Pollachi, Tamil Nadu 642001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 1810878

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One hundred consecutively excised and histologically diagnosed limbal neoplasms were analyzed. Majority (56%) of the affected patients were less than 30 years old. Benign tumours (77%) outnumbered the malignancies. Dermoids (29%) and hyperplastic squamous epithelium or 'epidermalization' (26%) were the commonest benign neoplasms. Squamous cell carcinoma, including frank and non-invasive carcinoma (23%) was the most frequent malignant tumour. These observations were compared with previous Indian and Western studies and the implications discussed.

How to cite this article:
Sunderraj P P, Viswanathan RK, Balachander R. Neoplasms of the limbus. Indian J Ophthalmol 1991;39:168-9

How to cite this URL:
Sunderraj P P, Viswanathan RK, Balachander R. Neoplasms of the limbus. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1991 [cited 2023 Sep 27];39:168-9. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/ijo/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?1991/39/4/168/24431

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  Introduction Top

New growths are relatively common at the limbus, as in other parts of the body where there is a sharp differentiation of epithelium . Several studies have dealt with conjunctival tumours as a whole in both Indian [2][3][4][5] and Western [6][7] ophthalmic literature but only limited information is available regarding neoplasms arising from the limbus [6],[8]. Hence the following study was carried out to determine the frequency of various limbal tumours in South India.

  Material and methods Top

This report is a retrospective analysis of the case records of the Department of Pathology of our hospital. These records pertain to the case history and his­topathologic examination of 100 consecutively excised limbal tumours seen over a period of seven years. The excised specimens were microscopically ex­amined after routine fixation and staining. Special staining techniques were used, where necessary, for precise diagnosis.

  Observations and discussion Top

Majority (56%) of the affected persons were less than 30 years old [Table - 1]. There was no significant difference in sex distribution. Benign tumours (77%) were more than malignant and premaligant lesions [ Table 2] as in previous studies [2],[4],[6],[8].

Of the individual neoplasms, dermoid (29%) was the tumour most frequently encountered at the limbus. Gogi (56%)2 and Das (34%)8 had the same ex­perience unlike Western reports [6] where naevi (24%) outnumbered the dermoids (10%). Consistent with past reports [3],[8],patients with dermoids usually presented for treatment before they were fifteen years old. Dermoids have been cited as the com­ monest benign ocular neoplasm in children [9]. The presenting complaints were invariably cosmetic dis­figurement due to the mass and/or ocular irritation due to the projecting hair. Majority of the dermoids were raised, solid, circumscribed, white and hairy lesions involving both the cornea and sclera. One of our patients had associated preauricular ap­pendages, pretragal fistula and vertebral anomalies typical of the Goldenhar syndrome. These congenital tumours are due to a developmental error which results in the displacement of the primitive ectoderm during closure of the foetal clefts [10]

Hyperplastic squamous epithelium with or without dyskeratosis (26%) was the second most common limbal neoplasm. Clinically they appeared as fleshy growths of variable size which were usually diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma. Ash and Wilder have pointed out that while 'epidermal ization' per se is harmless, it is an important precursor to the develop­ment of neoplasms, whether benign like papilloma or malignant like carcinoma. The frequency of this pathology was reported as 13% by Ash [6] but it is not clear why several previous Indian studies on conjunctiva [2][3][4] and limbal tumours do not mention this condition.

Squamous cell carcinoma comprised of 17% with frank malignancy and 6% with non-invasive carcinoma or carcinoma-in-situ including Bowen's disease. As already reported [2],[4],[6],[8], this was the most frequent malignancy arising from the limbus and was com­moner in middle aged men. Patients usually presented with fleshy, irregular growth in the limbus which was slowly increasing in size. It is well known that squamous cell carcinomas in this location are less malignant than elsewhere in the body [6] probably because of difficulty of spread over tough structures like the cornea and the sclera. Consequently, the growth remains superficial for a long time and lo­calized excision is generally sufficient as curative treatment. However, two of our patients required enucleation because the growth had spread to involve both he cornea and sclera extensively. This may be because corneal involvement by the squamous cell carcinoma is more frequent in developing countries at presentation compared to Western countries, probably due to delays in consulting the ophthal­mologist [5].

Inflammatory granuloma (8%) occurred less frequently in the limbus compared to the conjunctiva as a whole (22%) [5]. These lesions were usually small, polypoid and friable with the tendency to be mis­diagnosed clinically as a papilloma or rhinosporidiosis.

Causal factors are not known with certainly but could include trauma and foreign bodies like vegetable matter [10].

Papillomas (5%) were less common than the 7% [6]sub 16% [4]sub and 17% [8] already reported. These epithelial tumours appeared as small, mobile, pedunculated growths which did not involve the cornea or recur after simple excision. However, they are rarely capable of undergoing malignant transformation into squamous cell carcinoma [6].

Naevus occurred in 3% of our patients compared to 0% [2],[4] and 12% [8] in previous Indian surveys. This is much less than the 24% [6]sub observed in America probably due to differences in race and degree of skin pigmentation. Two of our three patients presented in the second decade of life with a relatively well circumscribed, elevated and darkly pigmented lesion. Though congenital in origin, naevi may manifest only later in life with increase in size or pigmentation occurring during puberty. This may be related to hormonal influence on melanogenesis. We did not observe malignant transformation in any naevus but though rare this is possible [7].

Apart from the above common neoplasms, others (7%) were rare and included one case each of an epithelial cyst, lipoma, fibroma, neurofibroma, an­gioma, lymphoma and spring catarrh.

  References Top

Ash J E, Wilder H C. Am.J.Ophthalmol 25: 926-932, 1942  Back to cited text no. 1
Gogi R, Nath K. Gogi R. Indian J. Ophthalmol. 28 : 171, 1981   Back to cited text no. 2
Zaidi N, Nath K, Gogi R. Indian J. Ophthalmol, 28 171, 1981  Back to cited text no. 3
Reddy S C, Sarma C S, Rao V V R, Banerjee S. Indian J. Ophthalmol. 31 : 658, 1983  Back to cited text no. 4
Sunder Raj P P. Pugalenthi N. Afro-Asian J. Ophthalmol. 6 : 16-19, 1987  Back to cited text no. 5
Ash J E. Am.J. Ophthalmol. 33 : 1203-19, 1950  Back to cited text no. 6
Reese A B. Tumours of the Eye. Hagerstown, Maryland. Harper and Row, 1979  Back to cited text no. 7
Das S P J. All India Ophthalmol Soc,. 14 : 83-86, 1966  Back to cited text no. 8
Sunder Raj P P Ravi K V., Rajastan J, Ophthalmol 12 : 13-17, 1987   Back to cited text no. 9
Greer C.H. Ocular pathology. London Blackwell scientific, 1979  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Table - 1], [Table - 2]


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