"Markedly Reduced" Risk of Skin and Internal cancers in Patients With Vitiligo
Most dermatologists assume the risk of skin cancer is high in patients with vitiligo, but the available data does not "concur".
In fact, the data suggests that vitiligo patients acquire 3 times fewer skin cancers (including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma) in comparison even though most of these patients are exposed to more ultraviolet radiation through therapeutic phototherapy.
The mechanism of protection appears to be linked to genes with recent research into the genetics of vitiligo revealing the same genes implicated to increase the risk for vitiligo simultaneously decrease the risk for melanoma, and vice-versa.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system kills normal melanocytes in the skin, resulting in white spots.
So if vitiligo patients have an overactive immune system that kills their normal melanocytes, perhaps they are better at clearing the abnormal melanocytes associated with melanoma and other cutaneous neoplasms.
Indeed there have been reports of patients with widespread melanoma that become spontaneously cured of their disease, and all of these patients are documented to have concurrently developed vitiligo.
Now It gets more interesting.
Korean researchers report patients with vitiligo have a “markedly reduced” risk for developing cancers on internal organs compared with other healthy individuals.
"These findings suggest that autoimmune diseases, including vitiligo, may provide immune surveillance for the development of cancer beyond the targeted organ. The findings of this study could motivate physicians and researchers to investigate the systemic influence of the autoimmune nature of vitiligo."