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In a case that is baffling doctors and researchers, a group of friends from college all developed the same rare eye cancer, several years apart.

While ocular melanoma is extremely rare, affecting just six in every one million people every year, 36 graduates of Auburn University have reported that they have been diagnosed with the cancer including three women who were close friends in their college days. Additionally, 18 patients, all in Huntersville, North Carolina, also have the incurable cancer.

Juleigh Green told CBS News that she was the first of her friends from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, to be diagnosed with ocular melanoma at age 27, after seeing unusual flashes of light.

“[My doctor] said, ‘There’s a mass there, there’s something there, I don’t know what it is, but it looks like it could be, you know, a tumor,'” Green said. “It’s like you had the breath knocked out of you, you know?”

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Paige Vickers for NPR

When Melisa Martinez's son, Juelz, was born very prematurely at 25 weeks back in January, doctors at University of California, Davis Children's Hospital gave him probiotics. "They told me the probiotics may help reduce the risk of infection," Martinez says. Now, Juelz is home and doing well.

Probiotics are just one element of the care Juelz received during the weeks he spent in the NICU, but research shows that probiotics which contain a mix of live, beneficial bacteria can help prevent a very serious intestinal inflammation called Necrotizing enterocolitis in preemies.

"If we give a probiotic, their [a premature baby's] chance of getting Necrotizing enterocolitis goes down," says Mark Underwood, who is chief of Pediatric Neonatology at UC Davis and a professor of pediatrics.

At UC Davis Children's Hospital, all preemies born under a certain birth weight are now given probiotics. It's become a common practice in other countries including Australia, Japan, Sweden and Finland, Underwood says, but in the U.S., giving probiotics to preemies is controversial, with some doctors calling for more research.