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Does No Red Eye in Photos Indicate Cancer?

By November 23, 2009

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There have been a couple of news articles floating around lately with titles like "No Red Eye in Photos Could Indicate Cancer." As a mom myself I'm sure headlines like this worry other mothers so I want to clear up the "link" between cancer and red eye in photos.

Not having red eyes in photographs does not mean cancer. Most of the time it just means you took a photo the correct way to avoid red eye. The time to be concerned is when a photograph shows a white reflection under red eye conditions instead of red. Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer where a tumor forms in front of the retina. Because red eye is illumination of the retina of the eye, in a photograph that normally shows red eye retinoblastoma will sometimes show up as a white glow because the white tumor is being illuminated instead of a healthy retina. It is also worth noting that most of the time this type of cancer occurs in only one eye so images will show one red eye and one white eye. There are other symptoms as well and detailed information on those can be found at Retinoblastoma.net.

Also, to dog owners now concerned about their dog's photos where the eyes glow white, a white glow is normal for many animals. This is part of the "green eye" phenomenon and is caused by a different eye structure than humans.


November 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm
(1) Quiche_Lorraine says:

Do you have any sample images? I would like to visually see what you are talking about.

November 23, 2009 at 5:02 pm
(2) Quiche_Lorraine says:

BTW, I looked at the links, but I seems like a bit of hype to me.

November 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm
(3) Photography Guide says:

As I said, I wanted to clear up the fear over not having red eye in an image. Photography is certainly not an absolute indicator of any medical condition.

November 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm
(4) Photography Guide says:

The Retinoblastoma group I linked to in the blog post has sample images. http://www.retinoblastoma.net/whatisrb.html

February 11, 2010 at 1:09 pm
(5) Kayla says:

Everytime I take a picture I don’t get red eyes. One time I took a picture with 6 other people and I was the only one without red-eyes. What does that mean?

February 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm
(6) Liz Masoner says:

Most likely it means the angle was wrong to create red-eye. According to the article the time to be concerned is when a white reflection instead of red is present. If you have concerns you should speak to your eye doctor.

February 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm
(7) J Smith says:

Hi…I was wondering about white eye in dogs. My Dogs left eye is always bright orange as though a torch is on behind the eye and it effects the entire eye. How do I prevent this?

February 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm
(8) Liz Masoner says:

Hi J,

As discussed in the post that is part of the “green eye” phenomenon with pets. Its the same as red eye in humans. You can find more details and tips on preventing the reflection at the article: “Green Eye In Photographs”

January 11, 2011 at 9:09 pm
(9) s luke says:

I have about ten pictures I can think of where my right eye is normal and the left pupil is bright red, whilst others in the photos are without red eyes. Could this be a sign of anything?

January 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm
(10) Photography Guide says:

Hi Luke,

As stated before I am no doctor. This post is purely to alleviate the fears that some blogs spread that no red eye always means cancer. The specific cancer discussed presents with white eye instead of red eye in humans. Whether or not your condition means anything I would have no way of knowing. As with any medical concerns – speak to a doctor.

November 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm
(11) Paula says:

Ok im really worried about my sister i took a photo of her the other day and notice she had green eye where you would expect red eye what does this mean? I can’t find answers any where every where i look it says green eye in animals

November 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm
(12) Photography Guide says:

If you are concerned see a doctor. there are many reasons red eye may no appear in a photo. This was simply to make folks aware of one possibility and that it is by no means the only reason for lack of red eye.

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