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Your Camera Flash Could Reveal an Eye Cancer

Tim Boyer's picture
Does your child have a retinoblastoma?

We’ve all experienced the occasional red eye imaging during a photo shoot, but have you ever noticed a white eye imaging? If so, then you may want to pay a visit to an eye specialist to find out if that unnatural eye image could be a potential eye cancer.


According to a recent news report from NBC affiliate station KCEN-TV in Temple, Texas, the mother of a 4-month old infant became suspicious when her photos of her son kept showing a lingering white glow in his left eye whenever she used the camera flash.

Initially, she thought it had to do with some imperfection of her camera. But after switching to a new high-end model camera, the white glow remained, prompting her to mention the oddity to her son’s pediatrician during his four-month checkup. As it turned out, that white eye photo imaging oddity became a life-saver as it alerted them to a not-so-uncommon cancer of the eye referred to as a “retinoblastoma” that occurs in children.

Here is the KCEN-TV news report:

According to the American Cancer Society, during the early stages of development in the womb, a baby’s eyes contain cells called retinoblasts that divide and fill in the retinal region―an inner layer of cells in the back of the eye containing special nerve cells that are sensitive to light. At some point the retinoblasts stop dividing and mature into the cells we use for vision. However, in some cases, a mutation in a gene called the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene interferes with the cell division process and causes the retinal cells to continue dividing non-stop and form a cancerous eye tumor.

With normal eyes, the "red-eye effect," occurs when a camera captures light reflecting from the retina at the back of the subject's eye when a flash is used at night in dim lighting. However, if a tumor is present on the retina, that reflecting light takes on a whitish tell-tale glow that indicates the retina is not normal.

While the majority of cases of retinoblastoma are treatable, if not detected soon enough it can lead to blindness and/or the spread of the cancerous cells to other areas in the body including the lymph nodes. Hence, parents need to be aware that a strange-appearing photo can sometimes be a warning sign that something is not quite right with their child’s health and warrant an examination by a pediatrician.

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Reference: NBC affiliate station KCEN-TV Mom Finds Son's Rare Eye Cancer With Camera Flash