Patients With Vitiligo Have Reduced Incidences of Skin Cancer

While their risk for skin cancer is reduced, patients with vitiligo should still take the proper safety precautions against sun exposure.

Vitiligo is associated with a lower risk for new-onset skin cancer, according to study results published in Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Researchers conducted a population-based study to examine the risk for melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer in patients with vitiligo compared with those without vitiligo. The study also investigated if the risk varied among different sociodemographic subgroups, such as ethnicity.

The final study cohort included 15,156 adults with vitiligo who were matched with 60,615 control group participants. The overall prevalence of skin cancer in participants with vitiligo was 1.04%, which was similar to the prevalence in the control group (1.15%). However, after 7.7 years, the 10-year cumulative incidence of skin cancer was lower in participants with vitiligo (1.3%) compared with the control group (2.0%).

Patients with vitiligo were observed to have lower rates of individual skin cancer compared with the control group. The incidence of melanoma was 0.1% (95% CI, 0.1-0.2) in vitiligo cases vs 0.4% (95% CI, 0.3-0.5) in the control group. The incidence rates of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) were 0.5% (95% CI, 0.3-0.6) in vitiligo cases and 0.7% (95% CI, 0.6-0.7) in the matched control group. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) rates were 0.7% (95% CI, 0.6-0.7) in vitiligo cases vs 1.1% (95% CI, 1.0-1.2) in the matched control group.

Our study shows that people with vitiligo have a markedly lower risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer compared to the general population.

The patients with vitiligo had a 38% lower risk of developing primary composite skin cancer (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.62; 95% CI, 0.52-0.75; P <0.001) and a consistently lower risk for melanoma (aHR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.23-0.65; P <0.001), SCC (aHR 0.67; 95% CI, 0.49-0.90, P <0.01), and BCC (aHR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.51-0.83, P <0.001). Non-White individuals showed a lower incidence of skin cancer, but there was no clear evidence of risk reduction for patients with vitiligo. However, only 75 skin cancers were observed, with 9 in 3179 participants with vitiligo and 66 in 12,663 of the control group participants.

Among several study limitations, participants with vitiligo may have had more frequent contact with primary care clinicians compared with unaffected individuals, potentially leading to a higher chance of skin cancer detection. The study may not have captured every case of vitiligo, resulting in a potential underestimation of skin cancer risk in specific groups.

The study authors concluded, “Our study shows that people with vitiligo have a markedly lower risk of both melanoma and [nonmelanoma] skin cancer compared to the general population. Further studies to understand the potential underlying mechanisms of this finding are warranted.”

Disclosure: This research was supported by Pfizer. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.

References:

Ferguson J, Eleftheriadou V, Nesnas J. Risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in people with vitiligo: UK population-based cohort study. J Invest Dermatol. Published online May 3, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.jid.2023.04.013