Auburn University is investigating at least 38 former students and employees who developed a rare eye cancer called uveal melanoma. In Huntersville, North Carolina, health officials identified another 18 cases.
Uveal melanoma, or “ocular melanoma,” occurs in just 6 out of every 1 million people per year — but doctors have found dozens of cases in people who lived in Huntersville, North Carolina, or Auburn, Alabama.
Many of the victims attended Auburn University between 1983 and 2001. Even more unusual, three of the victims were college friends.
One of the friends, Juleigh Green, was diagnosed with eye cancer in 1999. Her friends, Allison Allred and Ashley McCrary, had eye removal surgery just a few years after graduating from Auburn University.
The symptoms of ocular melanoma include dark spots on the eyes, flashes, or blurry vision, although some people have no symptoms.
The primary treatment is radiation therapy, but in about 50% of patients, the cancer recurs and spreading to other parts of the body.