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Study finds no cancer cluster at Auburn, despite reports

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama health officials announced Wednesday that a study did not find evidence of an eye cancer cluster at Auburn University, despite a rash of reported cases of the rare and deadly cancer that drew national attention earlier this year.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said the study “based on the best available information” did not find higher than expected rates of uveal melanoma among former students and university employees. The study conducted with Auburn University came after a number of cases of the rare cancer were reported among former students.

Justin T. George, director of cancer epidemiology, said the study looked at identified cases among people who attended or worked at Auburn since 1980.

Allyson Allred, who has been battling the cancer since 2001, has worked to connect other survivors who lived in Auburn.

“The fact that Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Health are not calling (it) a cluster doesn’t change the fact that too many people are dying from this disease and we must find the cause so we can find the cure,” Allred said.

From 2006 through 2015, there were 316 cases of uveal melanoma among Alabama residents for an average of 31.6 new cases each year, the department said.

A limitation of the Auburn study is that cancer registries across the country do not capture where a person attended college. Researchers used a list of Auburn University students and employees that had reported being diagnosed with this disease.

Allred said a task force submitted about three dozen names. The health department said 17 people met the criteria to be included in the study.

George said researchers remain comfortable in the finding. He said the cancer would have to occur in substantially higher numbers to qualify as a cluster.

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