Vitiligo may offer natural defense against skin cancer

May 4, 2010

London - Results of a new study suggest that people with vitiligo may have natural protection against skin cancer, BBC News reports.

London - Results of a new study suggest that people with vitiligo may have natural protection against skin cancer, BBC News reports.

A University of London study of 4,300 people identified a common gene mutation that both increases the chance of vitiligo and cuts cancer risk. The finding, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, is based on genetic testing of 1,514 patients with vitiligo and 2,813 without. Researchers identified a total of seven genes that were linked to vitiligo.

According to the study authors, about 70 percent of people in the general population have the gene combination that increases the risk of vitiligo while reducing the risk of malignant melanoma. Thirty percent have a different version that raises melanoma risk while lessening the chances of vitiligo.

The study notes that while everyone has one of the two variants, neither guarantees that either vitiligo or melanoma will actually develop - just as neither guarantees protection.