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Autoimmune Diseases, Research, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Vitiligo

Eye Color Linked to Skin Diseases

By Jennifer Warner

May 7, 2012 — They say “the eyes are the window to the soul.” But a new study suggests the eyes may also offer a sneak peek at the risk of serious skin problems down the road.

The results showed that people with blue eyes were less likely to develop vitiligo. Meanwhile, people with brown eyes were more likely to develop the skin disease and its characteristic white patches of skin and hair.

Researchers say the findings suggest eye color may also have important implications on melanoma risk because the two diseases are related genetically.

“Genetically, in some ways vitiligo and melanoma are polar opposites,” researcher Richard Spritz, MD, director of the Human Medical Genetics and Genomics Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says in a news release. “Some of the same genetic variations that make one more likely to have vitiligo make one less likely to have melanoma, and vice versa.”

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system attacks normal pigment cells, causing irregular white patches of skin and hair. People with vitiligo are also at higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases like autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

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