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Is Eye Color a Predictor of Skin Cancer?

By: Jenna Carter, PhD
Posted: Monday, December 20, 2021

A recent article published in Cancer Causes & Control reported findings from a study examining the risk of skin cancer based on eye color. Eunyoung Cho, DSc, of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues examined the associations between eye color and the incidence of melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as potential interactions with hair color and skin reaction to the sun. Their findings revealed that participants with lighter eye color had a higher risk of developing basal and squamous cell carcinomas, but there was no significant relationship between eye color and the risk of melanoma.

A prospective analysis was performed using data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. A total of 35,662 men between ages 40 and 75 were selected based on reported eye color information and a lack of skin cancer incidence before baseline. To estimate relative risks, Cox proportional hazard models were applied, and 95% confidence intervals were reported. Adjustments were also made for covariates including family history of melanoma, smoking status, ultraviolet B exposure at residence, and number of severe sunburns in a lifetime. Effect modifications due to hair color and skin reaction to the sun were also assessed using a multivariable adjusted model.

Overall findings revealed that participants with hazel/green/medium and blue/light eyes had a 24% (relative risk = 1.24) and a 19% (relative risk  = 1.19) higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma, respectively. Similarly, a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma was observed in participants with hazel/green eyes (relative risk = 1.16) and blue/light eyes (relative risk = 1.17), respectively.

Additional comparisons between different hair and eye color combinations revealed elevated relative risk for all three types of skin cancer; however, not all combinations were significant. There was also a significant interaction between hair color and skin color—but only for basal and squamous cell carcinomas and not for melanoma.   

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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