What is ocular melanoma? This rare eye cancer has invaded the 36 graduates of Auburn University.


According to CBS News, a real medical mystery has a university community and dozens of families nationwide: At least 36 people who graduated from Auburn University were diagnosed with a rare eye melanin. tumor.
Many diagnoses took place in the decades after former students entered Auburn University, Alabama. In recent years, when three women who became friends in college all suffered from eye melanoma (also known as uveal melanoma), one of the women began searching Facebook for other people who may also be affected.
The researchers also found that another 18 patients were diagnosed with the disease in Huntersville, North Carolina, about 400 miles from Auburn University.
Scientists do not know why people in these two towns have so many cancers, but they hope to find out. The researchers responsible for the study were researchers at Sydney’s Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who are studying patients in both regions and hope to understand what they have in common.
At the same time, Health spoke to Hakan Demirci, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan. He did not participate in any of Auburn or Hunterville’s patients, but he has diagnosed and treated eye melanoma, as well as other types of eye cancer. This is what he wants people to know.
What is eye melanoma?
Ocular or uveal melanoma is a cancer associated with subcutaneous melanoma (the most deadly skin cancer). It occurs in cells called melanocytes, which provide pigments and colors for the mutation and formation of tumors in irises.
These tumors may form in the iris (a colored area around the pupil) or in other parts of the middle eye, called uvea or uveal bundles.
Although ocular melanoma is the most common form of eye disease, this does not mean that it is widespread. Overall, the incidence rate is about 5 to 6 parts per million; in other words, it affects less than 3,000 people each year in the United States.
Related: 8 reasons your eyes are red and how to treat them.
What are the causes of eye melanoma?
Unlike skin melanoma, melanoma exposed to sunlight does not increase the risk of uveal melanoma. In fact, doctors do not know what caused the disease. They think most cases are purely accidental.
However, there are several things that can cause a person’s risk. Dr. Demirci said that Uveal cancer mainly affects Caucasians, people with blond hair, red hair, and light-colored eyes are at a higher risk than those with dark hair and eyes. He added: “This phenomenon is even more rare among African-Americans, Asians or Hispanics.”
He said genes may play a role in very small uveal melanoma patients. He said: “If you carry a certain kind of gene that can cause you to get cancer, then you may be more likely to get cancer and get cancer earlier.” These patients are also more likely to develop cancer in other parts of the body. .
Although scientists have not found any environmental risk factors for uveal melanoma in the general population, some studies have shown that people working in welders, farmers, fishermen or cleaning equipment may have above-average risks.

Dr. Demirci said: “The cases in North Carolina and Auburn are very, very interesting, and this raises a big question, is there some environmental factors there.” “Maybe all these people are living in the same In the region, this is purely luck.” But perhaps they will give us some clues to better understand the disease and discover something new.
Related: 13 Things You May Not Know About Sun Protection.
Eye melanoma symptoms
Juleigh Green was the first of three university friends diagnosed with eye cancer. She told CBS News that she saw her “unusual flash” as her first sign. She was diagnosed at the age of 27.
A few years later, in 2001, another friend was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31. “I just saw some slight flashes, say, 7 to 10 days,” Allison Allred told CBS News. Ashley McCree was the third friend who was diagnosed. She found black spots in her iris.
Dr. Demirci said that most of the time, the melanoma of the eye will lead to blurred vision or infarction – such as flash or dark spot – in the field of vision. It can also cause a spot (or multiple spots) that looks like a spot on the iris, called a choroid. He added that sometimes tumors are found in routine eye examinations even before any symptoms occur.
Dr. Demirci said that when eye melanoma is discovered and treated early, the prognosis of this disease may be very good. Although there is no cure, doctors can use radiation therapy to shrink a patient’s tumor or surgically remove a tumor. This usually requires removing the entire eye, but it is not always the case.
Unfortunately, Dr. Demirci said that ocular melanoma may be very aggressive — especially if it is not detected early. About half of the patients, the disease will spread to other organs of the body, such as the liver or brain. “If it spreads to another organ, the prognosis is usually poor,” he said.
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How to protect yourself
Because doctors do not know what caused most of the ocular melanomas, there are no specific recommendations on how to prevent them. However, for any visual complaints, it is important to see an ophthalmologist, Dr. Demircia said, and to perform annual eye examinations, even if there are no obvious errors. “Anyway, this is a good idea,” he said. “Because the exam can not only detect cancer, but also discover other defects and diseases that you don’t know.”
Dr. Demirci said that symptoms like choroidal fistula or blurred vision may have many causes and are usually not a sign of rare cancers, so if you are experiencing something unusual, you shouldn’t panic. However, it is wise to let it be detected as soon as possible. He added that the earlier the problem is discovered, the more likely it is to be successfully treated.
There is no evidence that wearing sunglasses will protect you from the effects of ocular melanoma, but some doctors still believe that they may reduce a person’s risk. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing sunglasses with 99% to 100% UVA and UVB to prevent skin cancer around the eyes.
There are also no dietary supplements or lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of eye cancer or prevent it from recurring. According to the American Cancer Society, “Taking healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight may help, but nobody knows for sure.” However, these changes have been shown to improve overall health status. .


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