Find out if there’s a difference in melanoma risk in someone with fair skin and brown eyes vs. fair skin and blue.

Lists of melanoma risk factors often include “fair/light skin and blue eyes.” Sometimes, the list says, “blue or green eyes.”

Melanoma risk lists always name fair or light skin, or Northern European descent—which implies very light tone.

This all begs the question: Is melanoma risk higher in a person with light skin and blue eyes, when compared to an individual with light tone and brown eyes?

“I don’t believe there was ever a statistical difference found (or even investigated) regarding the color of eyes in a person who is fair skinned, as related to their risk of developing melanoma,” says Judith Hellman, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Mt. Sinai Hospital, NY, who has a private practice in Manhattan.

“It is clear that the lighter the color of a person’s skin, the less protection it has against sun damage,” continues Dr. Hellman.

“A lighter color of hair and/or blue eyes probably just signal that the propensity of that person’s body is to produce less melanin, which is what provides the dark color of the skin, and which is what protects the skin from UV radiation.”

In other words, the more melanin in a person’s skin, the darker the tone will be, and of course, the more likely they will have brown eyes.

However, the color of brown may have nothing to do with the risk of this deadly cancer, and instead, brown is merely a marker for how much melanin a person’s body produces.

Keep in mind that many light or fair people have brown eyes, including Asians and Northern Europeans.

However, a person with dark pigment who has green eyes has a lower risk of melanoma (when basing risk on skin tone) than the Asian or Northern European with very light skin who has dark brown eyes.

Light skin and brown eyes vs. light with blue eyes, and the melanoma risk.

Dr. Hellman explains, “So while the risk may be a tad higher, I don’t believe it’s something that a study would demonstrate.

“Common sense dictates that the lighter the skin, hair and eye color, the more a person should be aware of the risk of melanoma and be vigilant about getting regular skin exams.”

dr. hellmanDr. Hellman practices medical dermatology and also specializes in laser surgery, anti-aging skin treatments and dermatologic surgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick