This readily available vitamin can help prevent skin cancer

If you’re heading out into the sun this weekend, you might want to consider a change to your sun protection routine.

A groundbreaking study at Sydney university has found that a vitamin can cut the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by a huge 23 per cent.

In a trial of patients at high risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, researchers at Sydney University found that a high dose of vitamin B3 taken twice a day as a supplement greatly reduced the risk of both skin cancers and pre cancerous sun spots.

The B vitamin is called nicotinamide and is also found in fish, meat, nuts, beer and Vegemite, however the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used B-vitamin pills, which are readily available in pharmacies, the Herald Sun reports.


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Study author Dr Diona Damian says, “This is the first clear evidence that we can reduce skin cancers using a simple vitamin, together with sensible sun protection.”

She says the vitamin works like “Powerade for the skin”,  restoring cellular energy in skin cells damaged by the sun, enhancing the repair of DNA in skin cells and protecting the skin’s immune system from UV radiation.

It took just three months for the preventive effects to appear in at-risk participants and the benefits ceased when they stopped taking the vitamin, said Dr Damian.

The study was based on 380 people who had had two or more previous non-melanoma skin cancers, Dr Damian hopes to study the effects of the vitamin on people with a normal risk of skin cancer.

Participants in the study took two high-dose vitamin B supplements per day.

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Dr Damian said it was important to realise it was only vitamin B3 in nicotinamide form that works against the skin cancers.

Other forms of the vitamin, niacin or Nicotinic acid, can cause adverse side effects including headaches and low blood pressure.

Have you had any skin cancers removed? Have you been advised to take any further protective measures?