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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Do you have eye freckles?

“I have no idea what an eye freckle is,” admitted one man walking through the Mall at Robinson.

“I never knew you could get eye freckles,” says a woman at the mall.

“Many people, at least 5 percent or more, have tiny brown discolorations on their iris, the colored part of their eyes,” says Dr. Brian Horvath of Horvath Dermatology.

These are freckles or moles, just like on your skin. They come from pigment producing cells in the iris.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

They are not related to sun exposure or your overall pigmentation. They’re nothing that needs to be removed.

It has been known the more moles you have on your skin, the higher your melanoma risk. But, not a lot has been studied about risk and these eye moles.

Researchers from Australia, where skin cancer is common, took a look.

They took pictures of the colored part of the eyes of nearly 1,200 people. These were analyzed for freckles. These people also got surveys about sun exposure and melanoma history.

If you had more than three freckles, your risk of melanoma increased 45 percent.

“And the risk was greatest for the people under the age of 40,” said Dr. Horvath. “So whether you’re fair skinned or not, whether you’ve had sunlight or not, your risk of melanoma is higher if you’ve had more freckles in your eyes.”

We asked an eye doctor to examine the irises of some people to see how many freckles she could find.

First, someone with more pigmentation.

“She is a brown-eyed patient, and she actually does have one iris nevus in her right eye,” says Dr. Kristi Weatherly, an optometrist at the Chang Eye Group.

Then, someone with lighter eyes.

“She is blue-eyed, light-eyed, and she actually did not have any nevi,” Dr. Weatherly says.

Neither had more than three spots, the number marking higher risk, but Dr. Weatherly would still be cautious.

“I would bring her back yearly, possibly take a photograph of it. I would still make sure the patient is aware of the finding, having their yearly exam with their dermatologist, to check all their skin, their freckles, their moles, all that,” Dr. Weatherly says.

Dr. Maria Simbra: “She found one nevus in your eye. Did that surprise you?”
Jodi Drexler: “It did! I actually was surprised. I had no idea.”

“I’m definitely glad she told me. So that way we can keep an eye on it,” Jodi adds.

She also plans to be more mindful of sunscreen use.

And be aware, no freckles isn’t a free pass either, especially if you are of fair complexion.