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Vitiligo is not skin cancer

We are aware via the outreach sessions we deliver, that some of our contacts believed that the two conditions were linked. We aim to replace myths and misinformation with accurate cancer information as follows:

  • Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes lighter patches of skin in comparison to the usual skin colour. This is due to the fact that the areas affected have less melanin, the pigment that colours the skin and offers some protection from the sun.
  • This does not mean that people of colour cannot get skin cancer. Howewer the most common types of skin cancer are uncommon in people who have a deeper skin tone. Areas of skin wbere the colour may be lighter such as areas affected by vitiligo, the soles of the feet and and palms of hands need extra protection from overexposure to the sun. (We do need some sunlight for Vitamin D production, especially in coooler countries and esoecially if the skin tone is deeper).
  • The amount of melanin we have helps to determine the colour of our skin, so people who are of African genetic heritage for example tend to generally have a deeper skin tone than White Europeans due to more melanin in the skins layers.
  • Vitiligo tends to be more noticeable if it affects Black or some Asian people. Most cases of vitiligo affect specific small areas of the body, but less commonly large areas may be affected and in rare cases individuals affected may change colour to a lighter skin tone completely.

Neither cancer or vitiligo can be passed on by sitting next to, or touching an individual with the condition. In some countries more people than expected are affected by vitiligo, for example in some South Asian countries. We at BME communities sincerely hope that this article will help to dispel some of the fears that both people affected by vitiligo and other community members may have and in turn raise awareness about a debilitating, but non cancerous condition. For more information visit the vitiligo Society.

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