To be certain, patients with vitiligo will in one way or another express their worry about skin cancer. Although vitiligo is a complicated disease and dislikable in all cases, no one can even dare fathom the pain of dealing with skin cancer.
At our dermatology clinic, vitiligo patients always ask about their incidence of skin cancer, but here is what we have to say about these saddening skin conditions.
The Cause of Vitiligo & Skin Cancer
You will always hear about warnings that as much as you have vitiligo, your risk for skin cancer is increased. However, this is not the case or, you will find a few cases where a vitiligo patient, later on, developed skin cancer in life.
Vitiligo is a skin condition where the melanocytes- pigment-producing cells fail to produce enough melanin. This melanin protects the skin from the harmful sun rays. You also hear warnings like sun exposure through tanning beds or in any other way increases one’s risk for melanoma, which is a skin cancer.
Skin cancer, on the other hand, is a skin condition believed to mainly develop after sun exposure, tanning, and sunburn. Although there is an obvious connection between the causes of vitiligo and skin cancer, dermatologists believe that vitiligo doesn’t in all cases lead to skin cancer.
However, vitiligo patients must become protective of themselves from sun exposure as the findings don’t rule out the possibility of developing skin cancer. The only good news is that it is not a guarantee that all vitiligo patients develop skin cancer.
What Do Surveys Indicate?
In a survey that looked at the incidence of skin cancer in both healthy individuals and vitiligo patients, it was found that vitiligo patients had a lower risk of developing skin cancer.
The survey involved vitiligo patients aged 50 and above. These were asked about their sun exposure, family history, which are possible triggers for skin cancer and whether or not had skin cancer. Their healthy partners were taken as controls during the study.
At the end of the survey, it was confirmed that vitiligo patients reported 3 times fewer skin cancers that include squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and basal cell carcinoma than their healthy partners.
The exact reason for this wasn’t ascertained, but researchers believe that it extends beyond using more sunscreen or protecting themselves from sun rays.
All in all, having vitiligo doesn’t mean you will develop skin cancer, but protective measures must be taken to eliminate the risk of skin cancer.