It’s a rare form of cancer in the eye, that typically affected only 1 in 6 million people but that is changing. The medical community is stunned by the links to two areas. A patient [Ashley McCrary] started a Facebook page, 37 others have responded..all Auburn graduates with same cancer.
This morning, 5/2/2018, NBC aired a segment drawing attention to how doctors are puzzling over dozens of cases — mostly women in their 20s and 30s — of a rare eye cancer in two Southern states. Over the last several years, a group of graduates from Auburn University in Alabama and 18 people in Huntersville, North Carolina, say they have been diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
Ocular melanoma — melanoma in or around the eye — is a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce eye color. Just as you can develop melanoma on your skin from mutated pigment cells, you can also develop it inside your eye, but unlike skin melanoma, sun exposure is not the cause.
Although it is the most common eye cancer in adults, ocular melanoma is very rare — about 2,500 adults are diagnosed every year in the U.S. It can occur in all races, at any age, but the average age of diagnosis is 55 years old.
“Most people think of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — as ominous black spots on the skin, but it can also develop inside your eye. It’s rare, accounting for about 5 percent of all melanoma cases, but the eye is the second most common location for melanoma to grow,” said Dr. Sapna Patel, a melanoma oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Most eye melanomas form in the part of the eye you can’t see when looking in a mirror so they can be difficult to detect. To make matters worse, they often present without any early signs or symptoms.
Signs of eye melanoma can include:
- Blurry vision or sudden loss of vision
- Floaters (spots or squiggles drifting in the field of vision) or flashes of light.
- Visual field loss (losing part of your field of sight)
- A growing dark spot on the colored part of the eye (iris)
It’s not clear why eye melanomas develop but people with light colored eyes are at higher risk of getting cancer. Genetic mutations might put people at higher risk. Suspected contributors include BAP1 mutations and possibly a small link to sun exposure. Some eye cancers run in the family but most experts believe that the majority of cases develop from random mutations.
“If diagnosed, your choice for treatment is the removal of the eye or radiation. They’re both equally effective, but you lose your vision with both. Radiation is not performed for vision preservation, just for cosmetic preservation,” said Patel.
When the cancer is confined to the eye, the 5-year survival rate is 80 percent. Thirty percent of people will have metastasis at year five, 40 percent at year 10, and 45 percent at year 15. The cancer cells go directly into the bloodstream and typically travel to the liver.
Photo courtesy of Bing.com
Ref. Today/NBC News