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Vitiligo occurs when melanin-forming cells (melanocytes) fail to produce melanin — the dark pigment in the epidermis that gives your skin its normal color. The involved patch of skin then becomes white. It isn't known why this occurs.

Doctors and scientists have theories as to what causes vitiligo. It may be due to an immune system disorder. Heredity may be a factor because there's an increased incidence of vitiligo in some families. Some people have reported a single event, such as sunburn or emotional distress, that triggered the condition. Sometimes pigment loss can occur in someone who’s had a melanoma, a malignancy of the cells that produce melanin (melanocytes). However, none of these theories has been proved as a definite cause of vitiligo.

Apr. 21, 2011