SEOUL, Korea and RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., May 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS) and Stiefel, a GSK company, today announced the launch of Hats On For Skin Health, a global initiative on sun protection for albinos in sub-Saharan Africa. The program aims to raise funds to purchase hats and other sun-protective items for albinos living in Tanzania, a country with one of the highest rates of albinism in the world. Presently, Tanzania is home to tens of thousands of albinos, and unless measures are taken to protect their skin from the sun's rays, there is a high likelihood that they will develop skin cancer at a very early age. This skin cancer is often fatal by age 40.(1)
The campaign is being announced this week at the 22nd World Congress of Dermatology in Seoul, Korea to encourage participation and donations from around the world. Donations received will help ILDS purchase hats or other sun-protective items that will be distributed by the Regional Dermatology Training Center (RDTC) in Moshi, Tanzania, an ILDS program that manages an albino project including a mobile skin care clinic, which regularly visits villages in the region. By checking skin to spot skin cancers early and instructing about proper sun protection, the staff of the mobile clinic strives to positively impact the lives of people with albinism in Tanzania.
"Because of the significant stigma affecting people with albinism in this region, many lead marginalized and impoverished lives in addition to facing severe skin health risks due to their condition," said David McLean, M.D., Secretary-General of the International League of Dermatological Societies. "With Hats On For Skin Health, Stiefel will enhance ILDS' efforts by helping to provide much needed hats to albinos in Tanzania as we seek to expand our monitoring of albino skin health and patient education programs."
Albinism is the genetic inability to produce the pigment melanin in the skin, hair and eyes, resulting in pale skin, light hair, pinkish eyes and impaired vision. Melanin serves as the skin's own natural protection against the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Without melanin, a person is predisposed to various types of solar skin damage, including aggressive forms of skin cancers.(1) In Tanzania, 100 percent of albinos show signs of sun damage to their skin within the first ten years of life and between the ages of 20-30 years, half will have advanced skin cancers. As a result, less than 2 percent of albino children in Tanzania reach their 40th birthday. Although, recent studies have shown this lifespan can be extended when measures are taken to protect skin from the sun.(1)
Worldwide, albinism affects about one in 20,000 people. However, the incidence of albinism in sub-Saharan Africa is significantly higher than in the rest of the world, and Tanzania has one of the highest rates of all with an incidence of one in 1,429, or approximately 30,000 people.(1) There are many precautionary steps that can be taken to help prevent skin cancer, including health education about sun avoidance, sun protection through use of sun blocks and skin coverage provided by clothing such as hats and long sleeves.
"We recognize the significant difficulties faced by Tanzanian albinos in their daily lives and are proud to announce this initiative with ILDS to provide sun-protective items that are desperately needed to help prevent skin cancer," said Bill Humphries, President, Dermatology, Stiefel. "By announcing our Hats On For Skin Health program at the World Congress of Dermatology, we hope to inspire others, especially the worldwide Dermatology community, to join our efforts to help albinos in Tanzania better protect their skin. As a global leader in skin health, Stiefel is committed to improving the quality of life for those affected by skin conditions around the world."
ILDS and Stiefel started working together in 2007, when Stiefel financed construction of the first dermatology hospital ward at the RDTC at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi.
To learn more about the campaign or to make a donation that will be used to purchase hats or other sun-protective items for albinos in Tanzania, visit http://www.hatsonforskinhealth.org and follow on Facebook and Twitter.
About The International League of Dermatological Societies
The International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS) is a non-governmental organization that is composed of all of the major international and national Dermatology societies of the world, and has official relations with the World Health Organization. ILDS was formed to: stimulate the cooperation of societies of Dermatology and societies interested in all fields of cutaneous medicine and biology throughout the world; encourage the worldwide advancement of Dermatological education, care, and sciences; promote personal and professional relations among the Dermatologists of the world; represent Dermatology in commissions and international health organizations; and organize a World Congress of Dermatology every four years. The International Foundation for Dermatology (IFD) was established by the ILDS to provide a growing program to improve the care of skin disease in underserved areas of the developing world. IFD successfully built the Regional Dermatology Training Center in Moshi, Tanzania, which trains leaders among allied health workers and doctors from the surrounding regions.
About Stiefel, a GSK company
Stiefel, a GSK company, is committed to advancing Dermatology and skin science around the world in order to help people better achieve healthier skin. Stiefel's dedication to innovation, along with its focus on pharmaceutical, over-the-counter and aesthetic Dermatology products, has established Stiefel as a world leader in the skin health industry. To learn more about Stiefel, visit www.stiefel.com.
1. Cruz-Inigo, Andres. Albinism in Africa: Stigma, Slaughter and Awareness Campaigns. Dermatol Clin. 2011; 29: 79-87