Thyroid disease and skin cancer

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In the course of their clinical work, dermatologists have noted for some years an association between vitiligo and thyroid disease. Vrijman and colleagues from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, undertook a review of this and found that there was indeed an association (see British Journal of Dermatology 2012; 167: 1224-35).

They discovered the frequency of thyroid disease in vitiligo patients was 15.1% , autoimmune thyroid disease 14.3% and the presence of thyroid-specific autoantibodies 20·8%.  This suggests that all patients with vitiligo should have their thyroid function checked.

The risk of skin cancer in patients with vitiligo might be thought of as increased since there is a tendency to burn when in the sun. This matter has been investigated by a team from The Netherlands (see Teulings et al. British Journal of Dermatology 2013; 168: 162-71). They conducted a survey designed to assess lifetime prevalences of malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) in patients with vitiligo, compared with non-vitiligo controls. Their findings suggest that patients with vitiligo have a threefold lower probability of developing malignant melanoma and NMSC. The reasons for this have yet to be fully understood. Hear about this on BBC iPlayer. Click Here (Opens in a new window)