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Cancer. 1985 Apr 15;55(8):1823-8.

The Tanzanian human albino skin. Natural history.


Three hundred fifty albinos in the city of Dar-es-Salaam have been registered at the Tanzania Tumor Centre. Their skin changes were followed for at least 2 years. Chronic skin damage was evident in all albinos by the first year of life; by 20 years, the skin of every subject demonstrated subclinical malignant change, and some had clinical epitheliomas. Untreated, the latter tumors become intractable and disseminate, usually causing death in the third or fourth decade of life. Four clinical stages could be identified, each one associated with distinct pathologic changes: Stage 1, erythema; Stage 2, epidermal atrophy with dermal hypertrophy; Stage 3, solar keratosis; and Stage 4, clinical carcinoma (under 3 cm). It was found that clinical Stage 2 only occurs in those skin areas that show evidence of previous Stage 1 change. Similarly, Stage 3 occurs only in areas that have gone through Stages 1 and 2. Stage 4 cancers were only found in those areas that had gone through all of the three prior stages. During the 2-year period of this study, 104 skin cancers, both early and advanced, were recorded at the albino skin clinic. Thirty-three of the 104 cancers were advanced (over 4 cm in diameter). The median age of the latter group was 31.0 years. Whereas there was no sex bias in the distribution of clinical cancer, 28 of the 33 advanced cancers were in men. Histologically, the great majority of the advanced tumors were squamous cell carcinomas: 29 of 33. There was one melanoma and three basal cell tumors. The predominant site of advanced cancers in the study group was the head and neck region (30 patients); the other three occurred on the trunk, which is generally covered by clothes.

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