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Doctors are baffled by unusual concentration of rare eye cancer

A chilling mystery is affecting two communities in two different states. Over the course of roughly 20 years, cases of an extremely rare eye cancer have been cropping up in Auburn, Alabama, as well as Huntersville, North Carolina, CBS News reported Monday.

Normally, ocular melanoma only affects six in every 1 million people. "Most people don't know anyone with this disease," explained Dr. Marlana Orloff, the doctor treating Ashley McCrary, one of the patients from Alabama. But by the time McCrary was diagnosed, she already knew of two other cases — fellow alumnae of Auburn University.

A total of 36 cases have been observed among Auburn alumni, and an additional 18 in Huntersville residents. Orloff is now studying several of these cases at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, CBS News explained.

Because ocular melanoma is so rare, much is yet to be studied about it; as it stands now, there is no cure. But Orloff and her colleagues are hoping to discover new information that might explain why the cases are so concentrated in these communities — and help prevent any further spread of the dangerous disease.

Read more about these strange cases at CBS News.