Is Skin Cancer Risk Increased by Vitiligo?

Do people with vitiligo have increased skin cancer risk? Are there treatments or methods to help reduce the risk?

Doctor Answers 2

Melanoma, Yes; Non-Melanoma skin cancers, probably

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People with vitiligo lack pigment in their vitiligo patches. This, of course, makes them susceptible to sunburns. Additionally,there does appear to be an increased risk of melanoma in patients with vitiligo. However, the evidence, though there, has not been as strong for non-melanoma skin cancer ( basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas).
Last year at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting, there was a poster from Henry Ford Hospital showing there was an increased incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in patients with vitiligo. However, this was a rather small study. There have also been a number of case studies through the years purporting this association.
There definitely is an association with both melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancer in vitligo patients who have undergone light and PUVA (psoralen and ultra violet A) therapy. For these reasons it is incumbent for people with this condition to wear sunscreens, avoid the sun between 10-3, and check your skin regularly.

Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Skin cancer risk and vitiligo

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There is an association between vitiligo and the most aggressive form of skin cancer, melanoma. The connection between vitiligo and the other major forms of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) is somewhat controversial. Individuals with vitiligo and with fair skin in general should exercise extra precautions when it comes to sun protection. Daily application of a moisturizer with a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater to sun exposed areas is recommended. Use of hats, sunscreen and covering up while outdoors, avoiding sun exposure between 10 AM-3 PM would be a good idea. There are certain tinted make-up/coverup products that contain broad spectrum sunscreens that I like such as Colore Science. Of course self-screening exams using the ABCDE criteria of malignant melanoma still apply to patients with vitiligo.
Good luck.

Bryan K. Chen, MD
San Diego Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.