Vitiligo lowers melanoma risk

December 19, 2012

Patients with vitiligo may have a lower risk for developing melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), according to findings of a recent study.

Amsterdam - Patients with vitiligo may have a lower risk for developing melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), according to findings of a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and colleagues say genetic studies are suggesting that patients with vitiligo have a lower susceptibility to melanoma. To examine lifetime prevalence of melanoma and NMSC - something not previously studied - investigators asked 2,635 patients with nonsegmental vitiligo and their nonvitiligo partners to complete surveys. The researchers received 1,307 responses.

After adjusting for risk factors, the results of the retrospective study demonstrated patients with vitiligo were three times less likely to develop melanoma (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.32; 95 percent confidence interval [CI] 0.12-0.88) and NMSC (adjusted OR 0.28; 95 percent CI 0.16-0.50) than their nonvitiligo counterpart, Healio.com reports.

The researchers noted that, in patients with vitiligo, seven developed melanoma in nonvitiligo skin, 30 developed 37 cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), five developed one squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and one patient developed both a BCC and SCC, according to Healio.com. In nonvitiligo respondents, 12 developed 14 cases of melanoma, 47 developed 61 BCCs, and four patients developed SCC.

“We hypothesized that the autoimmune response against melanocytic antigens causing vitiligo protects against melanoma,” a study author said. “This might indeed be one of the reasons for the decreased risk of melanoma we found in vitiligo patients.”

The study was published online ahead of print in the British Journal of Dermatology.