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Statistics tell us that basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) affects approximately 1 million men and women per year, with an average lifetime risk of 33-39% for men and 23-28% for women. By comparison, vitiligo, a chronic skin condition in which patchy areas of the skin lose their pigment, affects only about 1% of the population at any given time. What’s interesting is the relationship between vitiligo and skin cancer.

Researchers at the University of London identified 7 genes that influence the likelihood of a person developing vitiligo. They conducted a study with 4300 women and men, 2813 of whom had vitiligo; the others showed no signs of having the disorder.  Every one of the 4300 in the study had those 7 genes. The combination of the 7 genes were arranged in one of two variations–the variation that caused an increased likelihood of developing vitiligo and the variation that did not.

What’s even more interesting, however, is that the gene mutation that increases the risk for developing vitiligo also decreases the risk of developing skin cancer, ie, basal cell carcinoma. In other words, those who had a higher risk of developing vitiligo had a lower risk of getting skin cancer, and vice versa.

The bottom line, obviously, is this: you don’t know which gene variation you have, and since you don’t, keep using sunscreen! The likelihood of developing skin cancer is much higher than the chances you’ll get vitiligo.