Three eye colours may be risk factors for developing cancer

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Cancer can develop just about anywhere in the body if cells acquire the ability to divide and multiply at excessive rates. Even the eyes can become affected, but the triggers for this remain less clear. What science has shown is that individuals with three iris colours are more susceptible to cancers involving the skin and eyes.

According to the NHS, eye melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells in the eyes divide and multiply too rapidly.

The health body adds: “This produces a lump of tissue known as a tumour. It’s not exactly clear why this occurs, but the following factors may increase the risk of this happening.

“If you have blue, green or green eyes, you have a higher risk of developing eye melanoma compared with people who have brown eyes.”

An additional factor associated with the disease is having white or pale skin, with studies showing that fair-skinned people are more often affected.

Cancer Research UK adds that people who have abnormal brown spots on their urea or iris have a higher risk of developing melanoma too.

Though the reasons for this increased risk are unclear, it’s understood that eye colour may determine a person’s risk of UV damage.

Because people with light-coloured skin and eyes have less melanin in their skin, they are more prone to sunburns.

A person’s prognosis will depend on several different factors including tumour size, location and how much the disease has spread.

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In 2022, research published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control confirmed this by looking at 32,000 men.

The researchers noted in their abstract: “Light pigmentary traits have been recognised as one of the host risk factors for skin cancer, but findings on associations between eye colours and risk of skin cancers have been inconsistent.”

After comparing people with dark eyes, to blue, hazel and green-eyed people, scientists found a 24 percent higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma among individuals with lighter eye colours.

These subjects were also up to 17 percent more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.

Davinder Grover, a Dallas ophthalmologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, also noted those who had less pigment in their eyes tended to have less pigment in their skin.

“Not surprisingly, other research also suggests that folks with light-coloured irises have a higher risk of developing eye melanoma than those with darker orbs,” explained the AARP.

Together, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma make up the most common skin cancers.

Rates of all three diseases have increased in the past three decades, due to global increases in life expectancy.

People with any of the aforementioned risk factors may therefore benefit from taking extra precautionary measures when exposed to the sun.

Limiting exposure to direct sunlight and wearing sunscreen with a higher SPF are both recommended.

Conversely, some research suggests there may be benefits associated with having blue eyes, including a lower risk of cataracts.

What’s more, it’s been suggested that blue-eyed individuals have evolved because these individuals were also able to cope better with seasonal affective disorders.

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