(AscendHealthy.com) – Our genes define every aspect of our bodies, allowing for an incredible amount of diversity between us. We might not be able to see how many of those differences affect our health risks, but researchers may have pinpointed some interesting contenders. Among them, they explore the connections between the genes responsible for eye color and a few serious health conditions. Here’s what they’ve found.
Here’s the Link Between Eye Color and Health Risks.
Genes Can Have Multiple Functions
When we consider all that goes into our genetic code, we might assume each gene has one specific function. Experts still only understand a fraction of the human genome, but they’ve uncovered enough to know some genes can each affect more than one system in the body. This phenomenon, called pleiotropy, occurs in both animals and plants, and it can have some surprising results.
Some people might know about the strange connection between blue-eyed white cats and deafness, so they might not be surprised to find similar, less severe links exist in humans. Research has shown people with blue eyes are more likely to accrue hearing loss than people with darker eyes.
Melanin, the pigment responsible for dark eye and skin color, could have properties that help protect against hearing loss. More studies are necessary to determine how exactly melanin interacts with the ears.
The connections between pigment and skin cancer are well defined: The less overall pigment a person has, the higher their risks of developing skin cancer. The link, then, between lighter eye colors and skin cancer isn’t too surprising. Their connection to actinic keratoses, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, could be particularly strong.
People with lighter iris colors have a higher risk of developing cancer in the eyes themselves, as well. One study found a strong connection to lighter eye color and uveal melanoma, the most common cancer found in adult eyes. People at risk for this type of cancer may also be more genetically predisposed to developing cutaneous melanoma of the skin.
Only people of European descent have variations in eye color other than brown. Within this specific group, research suggests people with blue eyes could be at higher risk of developing alcoholism. Among the numerous genes that can interfere with the way we metabolize alcohol, some of them might be more common among people with blue eyes.
Our eye color is the chance result of the genes we’re born with, and it’s just one trait of many that make us who we are — but it could also say a lot about certain health risks. We still know so little about the connections between different genetic links, but the more we uncover, the more complex and bizarre they seem to be. Future research may help doctors better personalize healthcare, focusing more on genetic risk factors and how each might interact with other areas in the body.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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