With summer around the corner and the sun blazing, we’re seeing more and more warnings about protecting your health from excessive sun exposure.
A new study by Australian researchers found that people who took a multivitamin supplement twice a day cut their risk of developing the two most common forms of skin cancer by almost 25 percent!
Over two million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer (basal or squamous cell) every year. Even more staggering, half of all Australians eventually receive a diagnosis of one of these two types of skin cancer. So how can we curb skin cancer? Australian researchers started looking into a form of vitamin B3 as a possible solution. Vitamin B3, also known as nicotinamide or niacin, more commonly, is naturally found in meat, yeast, beans and cereals. It’s not hard to get your hands on already, since it’s easily found in many supplement lines for a relatively inexpensive price.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen that food-based derivatives can protect the skin from sun damage. It is believed that nicotinamide works in two different ways to prevent skin cancer. First, by helping DNA damage become repaired after UV light exposure but also by protecting and maintaining a healthy immune system.
Why Researchers are Hopeful that Studies on Nicotinamide’s and Skin Cancer Continue
The Australian study worked with nearly 400 participants, already diagnosed with skin cancer (either squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma). Subjects took two 500 mg pills of nicotinamide (vitamin B3) a day for a full year or were given a placebo. One year later, the vitamin B3 subjects were 23 percent less likely to have another cancer diagnosis. Study leader and professor of dermatology at the Dermatology University of Sydney noted, “This is the first clear evidence that we can reduce skin cancers using a simple vitamin, together with sensible sun protection. We hope that these findings can be immediately translated into clinical practice.”
The vitamin regain also reduced the quantity of ‘pre-cancerous lesions called actinic keratosis’. Subjects who took the nicotinamide supplements after nine months had the pre-cancerous lesions reduced by 20 percent. Researchers are excited to announce that this is the first truly clear evidence that skin cancer reduction is possible with smart sun safety and by a pre-existing vitamin.
Because B vitamins are water soluble and not easily stored in the body’s tissues, researchers are unsure how long the sun protective benefits will last after the B vitamin regain is stopped. Before you add vitamin B3 to your sun protective routine, remember that if you have a high risk of developing skin cancer, you should still check with your doctor and dermatologist.
Carlene Thomas RD,LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in weight loss and wellness. She provides nutrition guidance to the public in a variety of ways including corporate wellness, private clients and contributes an expert nutrition voice to a variety of media.