Is There a Link Between Pigmented Lesions on the Iris and Melanoma?

The connection between dysplastic nevi and cutaneous melanoma is well established. A recent study explored whether nevi and freckles found on the iris are also predictors of cutaneous melanoma.

Over 1100 participants completed a questionnaire regarding sun exposure history, sun sensitivity, use of sunglasses, hats and sunscreen, past medical history. Images of the iris were captured from each participant and scored for an assessment of eye color, presence of peripupillary ring and the number of iris pigmented lesions.

The results showed that the number of iris pigmented lesions was associated with cutaneous melanoma risk even after adjusting for known risk factors  such as skin and eye color, skin freckling and cutaneous nevi count. The authors note that there was at least one iris pigmented lesion in 76% of the participants in this study. The presence of three or more iris pigmented lesions was associated with a 45% increased risk of cutaneous melanoma.

The authors conclude that because the risk of developing cutaneous melanoma rises proportionally to the number of iris pigmented lesions, a detailed dermatological examination for melanoma may be justified in patients under age 40 noted to have iris pigmented lesions.