While eye cancer is very rare in the UK, people with blue eyes and fair skin are more likely to develop it. A new medical research study conducted by the Ohio State University in partnership with the NYU School of Medicine has found that eye cancer is more likely to develop in people who have blue eyes and fair skin.
In the study, a mutation in the BAP1 gene, which controls eye colour and is related to skin colour, increased a person’s risk of developing uveal melanoma, which is a cancer of the eye.
When controlling for the use of eye protection such as sunglasses, the study found that people with light pigmentation of the eye had a statistically significant increase in the risk of melanoma of the eye.
In the study, researchers examined 270 patients who developed uveal melanoma. They analyzed the patient’s genetics, focusing on genes that are associated with pigmentation of the eye. The researchers examined 29 known genetic mutations in pigmentation that are associated with skin cancer to see if any of the same mutations were linked with eye cancer.
Scientists already knew that there was an association between eye cancer and skin cancer. What they wanted to know was whether or not the colour of the eye was a factor.
In the analysis, five of the genetic mutations associated with skin cancer were also associated with eye cancer. Three of those five genetic mutations were located in a part of the genome that determines a person’s eye colour. In the past, cancer researchers were only aware of family history as a risk factor for uveal melanoma.
The study’s results bring to light that the entire population of people with blue or green eyes is at an increased risk of developing eye cancer.
Their results proved that eye pigmentation may have a direct role in causing melanoma. For people with blue or green eyes and fair skin, the results of this study suggest that it is important to be regularly screened by an eye doctor. Even though uveal melanoma cannot be prevented by wearing sunglasses, early treatment may help to increase the chances of saving vision and the eye itself.
In the future, more research will be needed on how skin and eye pigmentation genes interact with each other and with environmental factors. Understanding more about these interactions may help researchers and doctors to devise more effective diagnostic tests and treatments for cancer of the eye.