SEE: Crazy disease makes Brazilians' skin melt off in the sun!

You've likely giggled when people have mimicked the famous scene from 1939's The Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch screams, "I'm melting!" but, after you read this story, you might never laugh at the idea of anyone melting ever again. According to news reports, the Araras village in Brazil is home to the largest group of people suffering from xeroderma pigmentosum, a genetic skin disease that makes those affected harrowingly susceptible to skin cancers. The disease can even eat away at the skin, making certain facial features appear as if they've melted off. As if that weren't enough, about one in five XP patients may develop other symptoms ranging from deafness to spastic muscles and poor coordination.

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The inhabitants of Araras mainly devote themselves to agriculture, which means spending hours on end in the harsh tropical sun. This can, of course, cause major trouble for those suffering from xeroderma pigmentosum since their skin cells lack the ability to repair the damage caused by the sun's UV rays. Sadly, the incidence of XP is particularly high in this community, with over 20 people diagnosed in a population of only 800 people. In contrast, only one in 1 million people are diagnosed with XP in the United States.

xeroderma pigmentosumBecause the condition is so rare, those grappling with XP in Araras have long seen their health deteriorate while doctors strove to understand the cause of their afflictions. One XP patient, 38-year-old Djalma Antonio Jardim, says his condition wasn't properly diagnosed until 2010. By that point, he had undergone 50 surgeries to remove skin tumors, and the skin on his lips, nose, cheeks, and eyes had practically melted off. He now wears an orange-tinted mask to cover these areas of his face and shields his face with a large straw hat.

Though XP is known to be a genetic disease, little research exists on how it develops or progresses, and a cure is nowhere in sight. For the time being, doctors warn parents to look out for signs of XP in their children such as large numbers of freckles or small lumps emerging rapidly. If these signs are evident, parents need to resort to serious precautions, making their children wear SPF 70 or higher, covering their eyes with very dark UV sunglasses, clothing them in protective fabrics, and trying to limit their time in the sunlight.

I can only imagine how scared parents in Araras must be when their children are diagnosed with XP. After all, even if they take every precaution, they reside in a tropical area where exposure to the sun is almost inevitable. Hopefully, the global medical community will devote more attention to researching this disease and find a cure for those affected.

Images via Thinkstock, Globalnews.ca

Topics: cancer  latin america  disease  skin disease  skin condition