Freckles, Moles May Indicate Risk for Eye Cancer

THURSDAY March 12, 2009 -- People with moles and other features that put them at higher risk of skin cancer may also have an increased chance of developing melanoma of the eye, a new study says.

Canadian researchers found links between skin moles, freckles, moles on the iris and risk of uveal melanoma -- cancer of the eye's iris, ciliary body or choroid. Among the findings were that people with atypical moles (ones that appear different in shape or color from common moles) had almost three times the risk of having uveal melanoma as did those without such moles.

The research, published in the March issue of Ophthalmology, might help clarify a long-unclear issue. Previous studies have been mixed about whether moles and freckles indicate a higher uveal melanoma rate.

"Our study points to an interaction of genetic susceptibility and an environmental insult in the form of UV exposure," Dr. Ezekiel Weis, of the University of Alberta's ophthalmology department and leader of the study, said in an American Academy of Ophthalmology news release. Weis's team believes the analysis they performed on previous studies adjusted for factors that might have skewed earlier results.

Each year, about six people in a million develop uveal melanoma, the most common non-skin melanoma in the United States. People age 70 or older with light skin and eye color and who are prone to sunburn most often develop the condition, according to earlier research by Weis. Treatment is available, but the mortality rate remains high.

Posted: March 2009


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