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Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that can affect children under the age of five. It causes the cells of the retina to grow rapidly out of control. Retinoblastoma accounts for about 11% of all cancers that can develop in the first year of life, retinoblastoma is also the most common inherited cancer amongst children and can be fatal if left untreated.

Faulty genetics are responsible for about 40% of cases, and this can affect both eyes. The defective gene can develop at random when the child is growing in the womb or can be inherited. In the remaining 60% of cases, there is no faulty gene and only one eye is affected. 

One symptom of retinoblastoma is an abnormal reflection in the pupil, which is often spotted in photographs. Although the condition is very rare and there are other causes of the white reflex, retinoblastoma needs to be ruled out.

Speaking about the disease Moorfields’ Eye Hospital paediatric service director who specialises in retinoblastoma, Mr Ashwin Reddy, said: “Around 50-60 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year in the UK. At Moorfields, they have a network with the Royal London Hospital where we detect and forward referrals of retinoblastoma cases for treatment.”

Mr Reddy went on to say: “The key message we would like to stress is the need for more awareness and the importance of early detection if detected early the disease can be treated and a child’s vision can be saved. If you notice any symptoms, please visit your GP.”

A visit to your optometrist can also put your mind at rest.

(Thank you to Moorfields Eye Hospital for the majority of this text)

A child with Retinoblastoma - note the white left pupil

(image courtesy of 1rbw.org)