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.
Statistics…indicate that 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.
Ikponwosa Ero, UN Independent Expert.
These untimely deaths are completely avoidable if people with albinism have sun protection resources and know how to use them. Advantage Africa and SNUPA are determined to work towards the eradication of skin cancer amongst people with albinism across Uganda.
Together we'll make sure we have a skin cancer-free generation of people with albinism in Uganda!
Peter Ogik, leader of SNUPA
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 are most grateful to Ultrasun UK who have donated significant quantities of high quality sunscreen to our work since 2016.
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 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.
Support is urgently needed for our skin cancer treatment fund so that we can help people to receive the care they need. This support saves lives, as it did with Justine, pictured left. Mother of three young children, Justine had extensive skin cancer around her eye and on her neck and chest. After surgery and follow-up treatment and care, Justine was completely cancer free. She now runs a small business and she and her children are thriving!