In today's markets, beef producers don't need anything else against them when it comes to the health and profitability of their herd. That's why learning about potential problems, like cancer eye, is an important prevention method. Cancer eye accounts for 12 percent of condemned beef carcasses in America, with losses totaling $20 million annually.
Lance Kirkpatrick, a University of Arkansas Extension Agent, cautioned that, "Cancer eye is one of the more serious problems facing beef producers today.  Cancer eye consists of a tumor which is caused by an aggressive form of cancer scientifically known as bovine Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma." It is a malignant form of cancer and can move quickly to other areas of the body. Kirkpatrick also noted that cancer eye mainly affects cattle and, although it can occur in other livestock, it is fairly uncommon. He continued, "It is estimated that 80 percent of all tumors found in cattle at slaughter are due to cancer eye."
Cancer eye will not spread to other cattle in the herd, though, because it is a non-infectious disease. It's cause is unknown.  There have been reports that show that some animals are genetically inclined to develop the disease. "This, combined with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light appears to be one of the primary ways cattle develop cancer eye," Kirkpatrick added.
Unfortunately, cancer eye can’t be prevented. However, early detection is the closest thing to prevention. During routine work, it's important that cattle are inspected closely. Early detection is also the key to limiting financial losses on the farm. At the first signs of cancer eye, producers should consult a veterinarian or, if possible, send the cow to market. The first sign is white and pink tissue growth around the eye and tearing of the eye. It is not a seasonal problem and should not be confused with pinkeye. Consult a veterinarian before treatment ensues.
 An interesting step producers can take to lower the occurrence of cancer eye in their herd is by selecting dark-faced cattle with non-pigmented eyelids. Kirkpatrick noted that age seems to be a factor as well, "tumors rarely occur in cattle less than three years of age and normally develop in cattle over the age of seven."
"Treatment is highly dependent on the location and age of the tumor. Early (pre-malignant) lesions can usually be treated through minor surgery with few complications while the larger malignant tumors can be difficult to remove," said Kirkpatrick, and he concluded with, "Producers should understand that if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, most surgical methods would not cure the cow."


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