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This Problem's More Than Skin-deep

Disease causes lightening of skin

(HealthDay) -- It seems like every day a new autoimmune disease catches public attention. Here's another one: vitiligo, a disease that causes patchy discoloration of skin and premature graying of hair.

While pop icon Michael Jackson has drawn some attention to the problem because he may suffer from the disease, the University of California-Davis says vitiligo afflicts about 2 percent of the population, regardless of race or gender.

Once the body attacks its own melanocytes and saps the pigment from a patch of skin, the area rarely darkens again. Many people treat the problem with cosmetics or compounds that must be reapplied often. UC-Davis says there are more lasting solutions, but any effect can take months.

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