Purpose: To investigate the role of sunlight exposure in iris freckles formation.
Methods: We prospectively examined volunteers attending a skin cancer screening program conducted by ophthalmologists and dermatologists. Frequency and topographical variability of iris freckles were noted and associated with behavioral and dermatologic characteristics indicating high sun exposure.
Results: Six hundred thirty-two participants (n = 360; 57% female) were examined. Mean age of all participants was 38.4 ± 18.4 years (range, 4-84 years). Of all individuals, 76.1% (n = 481) exhibited at least one iris freckle. Most freckles were observed in the inferior temporal quadrant. The presence of iris freckles was associated with higher age (participants with iris freckles: 41.8 ± 16.8 years versus participants without iris freckles: 27.6 ± 19.2 years), a high number of sunburns during lifetime (>10: 31% vs. 19%), sunlight-damaged skin (26% vs. 11%), presence of actinic lentigines (72% vs. 45%), and a high total nevus body count (>10; 78% vs. 67%).
Conclusions: The association of iris freckles, behavioral factors, and dermatologic findings, as well as the topographical distribution, indicate that sunlight exposure may trigger the formation of iris freckles. The evaluation of iris freckles offers an easily accessible potential biomarker, which might be helpful in indicating sun damage on the skin associated with cutaneous malignancies. Furthermore, the evaluation of iris freckles could also be helpful in understanding the role of sunlight in several ophthalmologic diseases.