, 12:5,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 08 Jun 2012

Skin cancers among Albinos at a University teaching hospital in Northwestern Tanzania: a retrospective review of 64 cases

Abstract

Background

Skin cancers are a major risk associated with albinism and are thought to be a major cause of death in African albinos. The challenges associated with the care of these patients are numerous and need to be addressed. The aim of this study was to outline the pattern and treatment outcome of skin cancers among albinos treated at our centre and to highlight challenges associated with the care of these patients and proffer solutions for improved outcome.

Methods

This was a retrospective study of all albinos with a histopathological diagnosis of skin cancer seen at Bugando Medical Centre from March 2001 to February 2010. Data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results

A total of 64 patients were studied. The male to female ratio was 1.5:1. The median age of patients was 30 years. The median duration of illness at presentation was 24 months. The commonest reason for late presentation was financial problem. Head and the neck was the most frequent site afflicted in 46(71.8%) patients. Squamous cell carcinoma was the most common histopathological type in 75% of cases. Surgical operation was the commonest modality of treatment in 60 (93.8%) patients. Radiotherapy was given in 24(37.5%) patients. Twenty-seven (42.2%) of the patients did not complete their treatment due to lack of funds. Local recurrence following surgical treatment was recorded in 6 (30.0%) patients. Only thirty-seven (61.7%) patients were available for follow-up at 6–12 months and the remaining patients were lost to follow-up.

Conclusions

Skin cancers are the most common cancers among albinos in our environment. Albinism and exposure to ultraviolet light appears to be the most important risk factor in the development of these cancers. Late presentation and failure to complete treatment due to financial difficulties and lack of radiotherapy services at our centre are major challenges in the care of these patients. Early institution of preventive measures, early presentation and treatment, and follow-up should be encouraged in this population for better outcome.