May 1, 2018 -- Two clusters of an extremely rare eye cancer in Alabama and North Carolina are being investigated by researchers.
Ocular melanoma typically occurs in just six of every one million people, but has been diagnosed in a group of 18 patients in Huntersville, North Carolina and in another group of patients in Auburn, Alabama, some of whom attended Auburn University together, CBS News reported.
One of the patients is Ashley McCrary, who went to Auburn University. She started a Facebook page and says 36 people have responded to say they also attended Auburn University and have been diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
"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," she told CBS News.
The patients are being studied by oncologist Dr. Marlana Orloff, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues.
"Most people don't know anyone with this disease," Orloff told CBS News. "We said, 'OK, these girls were in this location, they were all definitively diagnosed with this very rare cancer -- what's going on?'"
It "would be premature to determine that a cancer cluster exists in the area," the Alabama Department of Health said.