Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with that number to continue to rise in coming years. But what if you could cut your skin cancer risk by up to a quarter with a cheap vitamin?
Well, not it seems you might be able to, if a study by the University of Sydney is anything to go by. They found that nicotinamide, a form of B3, reduced skin cancer by 23 per cent.
Researchers analysed 386 patients’ records and discovered the startling connection. The health burden of skin cancer is enormous and with this cheap vitamin, we could be well on our way to keeping ourselves healthier for longer.
The participants were randomly selected to receive either placebo or daily nicotinamide and in the nicotinamide group, the rates of new non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses were 23 per cent lower compared to the placebo group.
Additionally, the appearance of actinic keratoses, those thick scaly patches that may proceed to cancer, were reduced in the supplement group, as well by 11 per cent at 3 months of treatment and by 20 per cent at nine months.
This was enough for the senior author of the study to say, “This is the first clear evidence that we can reduce skin cancers using a simple vitamin, together with sensible sun protection”.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr Peter Paul Yu, “It’s a cheap vitamin … one could be generous about starting it early if that’s a preference”.
The major cause of non-melanoma skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which damages DNA and suppresses the skin’s immune system.
The effect seemed to begin as early as three months after treatment started, but stopped after the patient stopped taking the vitamin.
The study’s lead author and dermatology professor Diona Damian said it shows a “need to continue taking tablets for them to be effective”.
Professor Damian stressed that easy-to-buy nicotinamide “almost obscenely inexpensive” is not the same as another B vitamin, niacin, which can cause side effects such as headache and low blood pressure.
Regardless, the best prevention of skin cancer is to use sun protection and have skin cancer screenings regularly. So if you have a high risk of skin cancer, vitamin B3 could truly help reduce that risk, putting your mind at ease.