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A Year in Review | What 2020 meant for Vitiligo 

The last 12 months brought an unprecedented amount of disruption to our social lives. COVID-19 nearly impacted every aspect of vitiligo awareness, from research on vitiligo moving at a snail pace to worldwide World Vitiligo Day conferences getting canceled. And on top of all that, lockdowns in various parts of the world left many of us to cope with the sense of despair and loss of control.

Having said that, we, those with vitiligo, tried finding a silver lining in grim times. As we acknowledge the progress made on vitiligo awareness, we can safely say 2020 wasn’t an insignificant year. Here, we take a look back at all the “aha” moments, significant research findings, inclusivity moves, and news stories that were significant for the vitiligo community in 2020.

Popular Culture 

2020 kickstarted with Barbie dolls shattering the typecast of preconceived beauty. The makers of Babies who have been blamed for stereotyping beauty for way too long unveiled a slew of new dolls featuring inclusive hairstyles, body types, and vitiligo. Showcasing a multi-dimensional view of beauty, Mattel revealed the doll with vitiligo along with a doll with physical impairments, no hair, and prosthetic limbs.

Talking of books, Dappled by author Lisa Brown dropped on Amazon, early this year. Lisa, an occupational therapist with vitiligo from Perth explored the multiple themes of love, loss, friendship, mental health, disability, and self-acceptance in the book. The book features a protagonist – Jane, a health professional with vitiligo. Dappled is her story that acknowledges the value of being comfortable in one’s own skin.

Media 

Winnie Harlow continued attracting internal media’s attention this year too, especially before COVID hit all of us. Earlier this year, Winnie interviewed for Fashion Week Daily and was featured in The Middle East’s favorite magazine, Emirates Woman. While Winnie also appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show for an interview later this year, it was Jasroop Singh’s photoshoot for Khush Wedding Magazine that caught everybody’s attention. Jasroop is probably the first person with vitiligo to be featured in a wedding magazine, anywhere in the world.

Crocs Shoes went “vitiligo” inclusive this year with their digital marketing and inclusivity campaigns, featuring Jasmine Abena Colgan. Other vitiligans that were featured in international media were Tiffany Taylor and Ash Soto and Chad Esau.

Research 

Unlike the previous year, 2020 had lesser research conducted on vitiligo. Most of the studies conducted this year were either coherent studies or research based on a systematic literature search. Some of the interesting research conducted this year concluded that:

  • There is no significant association between Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and vitiligo.
  • Taiwanese people with vitiligo are five times at the risk of developing any kind of dementia compared to those without it. The risk for vascular dementia gets quadrupled for Taiwanese people with vitiligo, and for Alzheimer’s it may shoot up to a whopping 12-fold.
  • Patients with vitiligo seem to have a higher stressful event history than those with alopecia areata (AA).
  • Electrocautery Needling Technique can promote repigmentation in vitiligo when compared against conventional therapy.
  • Vitiligo is linked to increased risk for psychiatric disorders as per the data collected from the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) of Taiwan.
  • There is no scientific link between NBUVB phototherapy and an increased risk of Bowen disease, nonmelanoma skin cancer, or melanoma.
  • UVB phototherapy is not linked with skin cancer risk in vitiligo.

In September, AVITA Therapeutics (AVH), a Cambridge-based regenerative medicine company enrolled the first vitiligo volunteer in its pivotal study that will evaluate the use of its RECELL System and its role in re-pigmentation in vitiligo. In another positive development, Taiwan based TWi Biotechnology (TWiB) received the Clinical Trial Application (CTA) approval from Health Canada for a Phase 1 clinical trial for AC-1101 gel – a topical JAK inhibitor intended for the treatment of vitiligo.

Local support

Due to the unexpected outbreak of the Coronavirus in many parts of the world, World Vitiligo Day 2020 was commemorated differently this year. Though WVD conferences across Europe and North America were canceled, vitiligans from across the world raised awareness around the condition using their social media reach. World Vitiligo Day 2020’s international headquarters, moved from Vietnam to Serbia, under the leadership of Prof. Ivana Binic. Since the tenth annual WVD celebrations could not go as planned, this year’s awareness conference was an online-only, virtual event.

Later this year, a support group was formally established in Birmingham, Alabama for people to share their experiences of living with vitiligo, to help one another. Dena Oliver started and named the group –”Building Confidence and Changing Lives for those Living with Vitiligo.”

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