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Recent outbreak of ocular melanoma

Taylor Levy, Opinion Editor

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Doctors are baffled at the sudden outbreak of ocular melanoma. This rare eye condition occurs when the DNA of the pigment cells develop errors. These errors cause the cells to multiply out of control. The mutated cells collect in or on the eye and form melanoma.

This cancer occurs in about six in every 1 million individuals and has recently been diagnosed in 50 people in two southern states, North Carolina and Alabama. At least 38 of these individuals attended Auburn University between 1983 and 2001 and four of them have died so far.

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.”

As stated, this eye cancer is extremely rare and can be hard to get rid of. Some symptoms of this eye disease are blurry vision or sudden loss of vision, spots or squiggles drifting in the field of vision, visual field loss and a growing dark spot on the colored part of the eye known as the iris.

Treatment for this cancer includes plaque radiation therapy, Gamma Knife therapy, thermotherapy and surgery. Although this cancer is in the eyes, it can metastasize and spread to other organs in the body.

Risk factors of ocular melanoma include overlong exposure to natural or artificial sunlight, having blue or green eyes, older age, Caucasian descent, having a mole in the eye or on the eye’s surface, having abnormal skin pigmentation involving the eyelids and having certain inherited skin conditions, such as dysplastic nevus syndrome, which causes abnormal moles.

Ocular melanoma is a serious condition and very life threatening. People should be aware of the recent outbreak and what symptoms to look for.

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Recent outbreak of ocular melanoma