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(CBS) Recent photographs of Michael Jackson’s three children playing on a beach in Hawaii show that the eldest, Prince Michael I, has white patches of skin under his arm.
Now there is speculation, fueled by photographs acquired by British tabloid The Daily Mail, that the 13-year-old boy could be suffering from vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose pigment.
Michael Jackson’s 2009 autopsy confirmed that the troubled “King of Pop” suffered from vitiligo, which silenced critics who theorized that Jackson only pretended to have the disease when, they charged, he intentionally bleached his deep brown skin to make it white.
Prince Michael’s white skin patches could possibly be from vitiligo, but they could also be from something else – even peeling from a bad sun burn.
If the child does have the disease, which is a loss of skin pigment due to the destruction of melanocytes, the cells that form melanin, he joins an estimated two to five million Americans who suffer from it, according to WebMD.
The exact causes of it are largely unknown. What is known is that vitiligo does not discriminate – it affects all races equally. But it is more noticeable in people with darker skin.