Rare eye cancer cases grow to 17 in Huntersville

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The number of rare eye cancer cases connected to a cluster in Huntersville has jumped to 17, which is up five from when Channel 9 first started reporting on the cases.

Doctors believe the people who have the disease lived or worked in a 15-mile radius of each other. Kenny Colbert, whose daughter Kenan died of it in 2014, is surprised the number is so high.

“I knew a few more would come out but, quite honestly, I am surprised we are up to that 17 number,” Colbert said. “For these additional families, my heart just aches for them to know they may potentially go through what we went through.”

Past coverage of eye cancer cluster in Huntersville: 

Doctors said some of the new patients learned about the cancer cluster through media reports shared on social media. Dr. Michael Brennan, who has been investigating the eye cancer cluster, said this is proof that a better cancer registry is needed, enabling doctors to study links and not have to find people through social media.

Channel 9 first exposed the cases in 2014, and has followed the issue ever since.

In 2014, the rare eye cancer was found in young women who lived near or went to Hopewell High School. Now, the cases include people who used to live in Huntersville and moved away, including a man just added to the patient list who is from Tennessee.

[IMAGES: Victims in Huntersville with eye cancer]

“When do we close the window on this?” Channel 9 reporter Blake Hanson asked.

“This is something, to be honest, Blake, I don’t know the answer to that,” Brennan said.

Simultaneous studies of patients’ habits and genetics are underway to try and figure out the cause of the eye cancer.

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