Nearly 18 people in North Carolina and at least 36 more in Alabama have been diagnosed with a rare eye cancer which is generally found in six in a million people, according to reports. The increasing reports of this form of eye cancer in the region has alarmed doctors who are looking for the probable cause.
The cancer, known as ocular melanoma, is reportedly found in only six out of every one million people each year.
The incident came to light when four friends who attended Auburn University together were diagnosed with the cancer. They believe an investigation into the university could find the cause for their affliction, according to Daily Mail.
Reports state that 18 patients, in January this year, who lived within a 15-mile radius were diagnosed with the cancer in Huntersville, North Carolina.
The four friends reportedly formed an online community to find others like them in the region and have learned since that 36 other graduates and workers of Auburn University have also been diagnosed with the same form of eye cancer.
Out of the four friends, Juleigh Green, was the first one to be diagnosed when she was 27 years. Reports state that she visited a doctor after she began seeing odd flashes of light.
The doctor reportedly told her: "There's a mass there, there's something there, I don't know what it is, but it looks like it could be, you know, a tumor."
After Green, her old friend Allison Allred was diagnosed with the cancer when she was 31. The doctors found a 10-millimeter melanoma on her retina, according to reports.
Subsequently, their friend Ashley McCrary also paid a visit to a doctor after she found black spots in her iris, she was also later diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
All of the three women reportedly had to get one if their eyes removed after being diagnosed. The fourth friend, Lori Lee, was also diagnosed with the same eye cancer later, however, her eyes were saved by the doctors.
McCary found it odd that she knew enough people with the same disease, she said: "What's crazy is literally standing there, I was like, "Well, I know two people who've had this cancer."
She then told about the commonality to her oncologist at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) in Philadelphia, Dr. Marlana Orloff. Dr. Orloff has now launched an probe into the case.
The doctor, while talking to CBS, said: "Most people don't know anyone with this disease. We said, "OK, these girls were in this location, they were all definitively diagnosed with this very rare cancer – what's going on?"'
'We believe that when we're looking at what's going on in Huntersville, North Carolina, and what's going on here, there is something that potentially links us together,' McCrary said.
'Until we get more research into this, then we're not gonna get anywhere. We've got to have it so that we can start linking all of them together to try to find a cause, and then one day, hopefully, a cure,' Lee added.
Reports state that Auburn University is also conducting its own investigation to probe whether any environmental factors could have been a probable cause.