Skin cancers amongst four Nigerian albinos


Maurice E. Asuquo, MD GPO Box 1891 Calabar Nigeria


Background  Albinism is an established risk factor for skin cancer in black Africans, and high levels of ultraviolet radiation increase the risk of the three major forms of skin cancer.

Methods  We present four albinos with histologic diagnoses of skin cancer who were seen at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria from January 2005 to December 2006. Skin cancer in these cases was compared with the total skin cancer affecting 29 patients during the study period.

Results  Twenty-nine patients presented with skin cancer during the study period. Four Nigerian albinos (two men and two women) with skin cancer accounted for 13.8% of the skin cancers observed during the 2-year period. They ranged in age from 22 to 40 years (mean, 27.8 years). The sites of the lesions included the head [squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in two patients and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in one patient] and the upper limb (melanoma). All tumors were excised; in addition, patients with SCC and melanoma received adjuvant chemotherapy. Two patients, one woman with SCC and the patient with melanoma, showed residual tumor because of inadequate excision. During the evaluation period between 14 and 18 months, the sites appeared to be healed with no evidence of recurrence in the male with SCC and female with BCC.

Conclusion  Albinism and solar radiation are risk factors for skin cancer. Early implementation of public education strategies on prevention should improve outcome.