“Persons with albinism die early from skin cancer between the ages of 30 and 40. This means that cancer is likely to be the leading cause of death for persons with albinism.”
Lacking the protective pigment melanin in their skin, people with albinism in Uganda are extremely vulnerable to severe sunburn
solar elastosis (wrinkling) actinic chelitis (sore and rough lips at risk of turning cancerous) and solar keratoses (rough areas which can also turn into cancer). They lack access to basic medical care and most don’t have the knowledge or resources needed to protect themselves from the intense sun.
These untimely deaths are completely avoidable if people with albinism have sun protection resources and know how to use them. SNUPA and Advantage Africa, working in partnership with Ultrasun UK, are determined to work towards the eradication of skin cancer amongst people with albinism across Uganda.
High sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen is inaccessible or prohibitively expensive in Uganda. We have therefore worked with the Government’s Revenue Authority to ensure that vital supplies of sunscreen for people with albinism can be imported tax and duty free.
We’re most grateful to the team at Ultrasun UK who have generously donated significant quantities of high quality sunscreen since 2016 and who support our vital, regular skin clinics for 1,000 people with albinism. Ultrasun UK is affiliated to Ultrasun International which was founded in Switzerland in 1992 and produces highest grade dermatological protection.
In district centres across the Busoga sub-region of Uganda, we hold skin clinics for children and adults with albinism every four months. Here, people are provided with thorough skin checks by experienced local dermatologist Dr. Ngobi. They also receive supplies of Ultrasun high (SPF) sunscreen, lip salves, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and a long sleeved shirt, along with refresher training in how to protect themselves from the sun.
If people are found to have pre-cancerous lesions on their skin, Dr. Ngobi performs cryosurgery, using the extreme cold of liquid nitrogen to remove them. For people who already have signs of skin cancer, a biopsy is performed. Should a diagnosis of skin cancer be confirmed, we aim to help them receive the treatment and surgery necessary to remove it.
In 2022, SNUPA in partnership with Elgon Foundation for Persons with Albinism with support from Beyond Suncare embarked on a skin cancer prevention project in the Bugishu and Sebei region serving over 500 person with albinism.