Group of rare eye cancer cases baffles experts

Group of rare eye cancer cases baffles experts. A group of patients with a rare type of eye cancer called ocular melanoma has researchers and epidemiologists stumped. The cancer, which normally occurs in about six in every 1 million individuals, has been identified in more than 50 individuals around two locations: Huntersville, North Carolina, and Auburn, Alabama. At least 38 of these individuals attended Auburn University between 1983 and 2001, according to a Facebook page for the group of patients. At least four have died of the disease.

Juleigh Green was the first person from the Auburn group to be diagnosed with the condition, in 1999. She had surgery to remove her left eye in 2000 and has not had any recurrences since, she says. “When I was diagnosed, I kept wanting to talk to someone who had been through this before and had done well,” Green said. “But it seemed like nobody had heard of this or had any connection with anyone who had this, and that’s when I realized how incredibly rare it was.”

Ocular melanoma refers to a malignant tumor that develops from cells called melanocytes that produce the dark-colored pigment melanin, which is present in people’s skin, eyes and hair and the lining of some internal organs, according to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation.
Symptoms vary by person but generally include blurry vision, spots in the visual field and vision loss, according to Dr. Marlana Orloff, an oncologist at Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia, who is treating a number of the people in the Alabama group.
“For the primary eye tumors, it will either be incidentally picked up on routine eye exam having no symptoms, or more commonly patients have symptoms of a retinal detachment with flashes and floaters or blurry vision,” Orloff said.

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