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Lack of tumour pigmentation in conjunctival melanoma is associated with light iris colour and worse prognosis
  1. Niels J Brouwer1,
  2. Marina Marinkovic1,
  3. Gregorius P M Luyten1,
  4. Carol L Shields2,
  5. Martine J Jager1
  1. 1 Department of Ophthalmology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Ocular Oncology Service, Wills Eye Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martine J Jager, Department of Ophthalmology, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. box 9600, 2300 RC, Leiden, The Netherlands; m.j.jager{at}


Aim To investigate whether differences in iris colour, skin colour and tumour pigmentation are related to clinical outcome in conjunctival melanoma.

Methods Data of 70 patients with conjunctival melanoma from the Leiden University Medical Center (Leiden, The Netherlands) and 374 patients from the Wills Eye Hospital (Philadephia, USA) were reviewed. The relation between iris colour, skin colour and tumour pigmentation versus clinical parameters and outcome was investigated using univariate and multivariate regression analyses.

Results A light iris colour (blue, grey, green) was present in 261 (59%) patients and a dark colour (hazel, brown) in 183 (41%). A low tumour pigmentation was detected in 130 (40%) and a high pigmentation in 197 (60%) patients. Low tumour pigmentation was associated with light iris colour (p=0.021) but not related to skin colour (p=0.92). In univariate analysis, neither iris nor skin colour was related to clinical outcome, while a low tumour pigmentation was related to metastasis formation (HR 2.37, p=0.004) and death (HR 2.42, p=0.020). In multivariate analysis, low tumour pigmentation was related to the development of recurrences (HR 1.63, p=0.043), metastasis formation (HR 2.48, p=0.004) and death (HR 2.60, p=0.014).

Conclusion Lightly pigmented tumours occurred especially in individuals with lightly coloured irises. While iris colour or skin colour was not significantly related to clinical outcome, a low tumour pigmentation was related to a worse outcome in patients with conjunctival melanoma. The amount and type of melanin in conjunctival melanocytes may be involved in the pathogenesis and behaviour of selected conjunctival melanoma.

  • oncology
  • tumour pigmentation
  • iris colour
  • melanin
  • conjunctival melanoma

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  • CLS and MJJ are joint senior authors.

  • Contributors Design of the study: all authors. Data acquisition: NJB, MM, CLS. Data interpretation: all authors. Drafting and critical revision and approval of the manuscript: all authors.

  • Funding NJB received an MD/PhD programme grant from the LUMC. The sponsor or funding organisation had no role in the design or conduct of this research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The institutional medical ethics committee of the Leiden University Medical Center decided that this retrospective study did not require their approval under Dutch law. The study adhered to the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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