How Frequent Is Albinism?

Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that is present at birth. People with albinism lack melanin and have little or no pigment in their skin, hair and/or eyes. Worldwide, some type of albinism is present in about 1 out of every 20,000 people. Tanzania has one of the highest rates of albinism in the world, presenting in 1 out of every 1,400 people.

More about albinism:

  • Many people with albinism are legally blind and all have some problem with vision or low vision, depending on the type of albinism.

  • An albino child may be born to parents who are not albino. The gene for albinism is recessive and a child will have a 25% chance of inheriting albinism if both parents are carriers.

  • Scientists believe that East Africa and Tanzania in particular may be the source of the genetic mutation that causes albinism, which may at least partly explain the high frequency of albinism in this part of the world.

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Post 6

@turkay1-- I don't think that albinism is more prevalent or less prevalent in any part of the world. Albinism is believed to be more common among people of darker skin. I don't think this is true. Albinism is probably just being diagnosed more easily in societies with darker skin.

Most people don't realize that there are different types of albinism and some of them are very mild. It can be difficult to diagnose someone who naturally has fair skin with albinism and it's probably being under-diagnosed in white societies.

Overall, albinism is a rare condition that's seen all over the world.

Post 5

Is albinism common in Asia? What part of the world has the least occurrence of albinism?

Post 4

@KoiwiGal-- I watched a TV program about this, it was quite sad. They were also talking about albinos not being treated well in some African countries. Their families were rejecting them and some people were even scared to touch them.

It's sad, because it's health condition like any other and it can happen to anyone. No albino chose to be born that way.

I am curious about why albinism is more common in Africa though. I wonder if marriage among relatives is more common in these communities? Because doesn't inter-family marriage increase the chances of genetic mutations?

Post 3

@pastanaga - There was an albino kid living in my town when I was growing up and I just thought he was so cool looking. I wished that I had the same features.

I didn't realize that it could go hand in hand with blindness. And I was told later that he developed skin cancer as well, the poor guy. Not to mention that fact that he was probably stared at all the time, whether it was by stupid kids like me who envied him, or by others who had even worse instincts. The world can be very cruel to people who fall outside the norm.

Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I always thought that it was a mutation that occurred occasionally in people and animals, rather than a trait that could be handed down. Although, of course, it must be because I know there are forms of albinism in animals that are bred for specifically, like those pink-eyed white rats and rabbits that are used in laboratory research.

Even so, I doubt it has only ever spontaneously arisen once, in East Africa and then spread out to the rest of the world. It seems more likely that there were other factors at work that made it slightly more successful there, and therefore more common.

Post 1

I remember seeing people with albinism when I was traveling in east Africa and they are not treated very well. It's an extremely difficult life, even if you live in a country where people understand that the condition is caused by the albinism gene. But in some countries they think it is caused by bad luck or witchcraft and they can be very cruel to the person with the condition.

Even if the person is accepted in the community, they are extremely prone to sun damage, which can be impossible to guard against in Africa.

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