Kiprono et al. BMC Cancer 2014, 14:157
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2407/14/157

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Open Access

Histological review of skin cancers in African
Albinos: a 10-year retrospective review
Samson Kimaiyo Kiprono1,2*, Baraka Michael Chaula1 and Helmut Beltraminelli1,3
Abstract
Background: Skin cancer is rare among Africans and albinism is an established risk for skin cancer in this
population. Ultraviolet radiation is highest at the equator and African albinos living close to the equator have the
highest risk of developing skin cancers.
Methods: This was a retrospective study that involved histological review of all specimens with skin cancers from
African albinos submitted to The Regional Dermatology Training Center in Moshi, Tanzania from 2002 to 2011.
Results: A total of 134 biopsies from 86 patients with a male to female ratio of 1:1 were reviewed. Head and neck
was the commonest (n = 75, 56.0%) site affected by skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was more
common than basal cell carcinoma (BCC) with a ratio of 1.2:1. Only one Acral lentiginous melanoma was reported.
Majority (55.6%) of SCC were well differentiated while nodular BCC (75%) was the most common type of BCC.
Conclusions: Squamous cell carcinoma is more common than basal cell carcinoma in African albinos.
Keywords: Albinos, African, Skin Cancer

Background
Skin cancer is the most common malignancy among
Caucasians. It represents approximately 20-30% of all
neoplasms in Caucasians and 1-2% in those with colored
skin [1]. Skin cancer is a major cause of morbidity and
mortality in Albinos who develop premalignant and malignant lesions at a younger age and suffer from advanced
skin cancers in the third to fourth decade of life [2,3].
Albinism is a genetically inherited disorder with a
worldwide distribution. Phenotypically it presents with
reduced or no melanin in the hair, the skin and the eyes
[4]. Genetically albinism is classified into four types according to the type of gene mutation [4]. Oculocutaneous
albinism type II (OCAII) is the most common type of albinism in Africa [4]. The prevalence is estimated to range
from 1 in 15,000 in the East-Central State of Nigeria [2]
to 1 in 1,000 in the Tonga tribe of Zimbabwe [5]. The
prevalence in Tanzania is estimated to be 1 in 2,500
inhabitants [3]. The lack of melanin and exposure to
* Correspondence: kipsam2@yahoo.com
1
Department of Dermatology, Regional Dermatology Training Center,
P.O. Box 8332, Moshi, Tanzania
2
Department of Dermatology, Provincial General Hospital, P.O. Box 15-50100,
Kakamega, Kenya
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article

intense ultraviolet radiation increase the risk of developing skin cancer. The lack of melanin in Albinos increases the risk of developing skin cancer by 1,000 fold
as compared with the general African population [6].
The aim of this study was to determine the common
type of skin cancers and if there is an increase in prevalence of squamous cell carcinoma using biopsies and
excisions from Albinos.

Methods
This study was conducted at the Regional Dermatology
Training Center (RDTC) at the Kilimanjaro Christian
Medical Center. This is a referral hospital for skin diseases in Northern Tanzania with a catchment area population extending to the neighboring countries. This was
a retrospective study covering a period of 10 years (from
2002 to 2011). All files of patients who were biopsied or
whose tumors had been excised and submitted for histopathological examination were retrieved and a structured
data collection tool was used to extract the data. Data was
entered into a statistical package for social scientists
(SPPSS Chicago Inc.) for descriptive analysis. Ethical clearance was waived by the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical
College Ethical Committee. All slides were examined by a

© 2014 Kiprono et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.

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