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Quoting wikipedia:

Jackson's skin had been a medium-brown color for the entire duration of his youth, but starting in the mid-1980s, it gradually grew paler. The change gained widespread media coverage, including rumors that he might be bleaching his skin. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli's biography, in 1986, Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo and lupus; the vitiligo partially lightened his skin, and the lupus was in remission; both illnesses made him sensitive to sunlight. The treatments he used for his condition further lightened his skin tone, and, with the application of pancake makeup to even out blotches, he could appear very pale. Jackson was also diagnosed with vitiligo in his autopsy.

1) Is this plausible?

2) Is it likely to be an actual disease, or would there be so many mitigating factors that it is unlikely a person would suffer to the extent he did?

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Vitiligo is a real disease, and can absolutely have the effects it did on MJ. I've known people with skin that looked like patchwork quilts, and others where there was more generalized loss of pigmentation. I've met sub-Saharan Africans with skin much lighter than mine (my ancestors are from Northern Europe). I see absolutely no reason to question his appearance from a medical standpoint. –  MattDMo Nov 12 '13 at 5:50

1 Answer 1

1) Is this plausible?

It is absolutely plausible. His particular condition was called Vitiligo (as stated in your quote) and isn't that uncommon, albeit not usually as severe.

Skin pigmentation expression changes over time, sometimes dramatically.

2) Is it likely to be an actual disease, or would there be so many mitigating factors that it is unlikely a person would suffer to the extent he did?

Vitiligo is a very well-documented disease, and like every disease, there's a broad range of affectation. Treatments options are very limited, and so makeup or other methods are often used to disguise the affected skin.

Here's some more pictures of people with Vitiligo at varying stages:

Girl with severe vitiligo

Man with severe vitiligo

Woman with vitiligo

Woman with vitiligo

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