A new study shows that vitamin B3 has the potential to prevent skin cancer and melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Apparently, vitamin B3 can boost the body’s repair of DNA damage caused by UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds.
It is important to distinguish between melanoma and normal skin cancer, as melanoma is far more dangerous, and it is on the rise. The most established risk factors for any type of skin cancer are sunburns during childhood, excessive sunbathing, fair skin, having many moles, radioactive radiation, chemical compounds such as arsenic, and a family history of skin cancer.
There is even evidence suggesting that a lack of certain nutrients, including vitamin B3, may play a determining role in the body’s ability to protect its skin cells from damage.
The symptoms are changes in the size or color of a mole. Other symptoms include bleeding, itching, and oozing. This particular type of skin cancer is aggressive with a mortality rate of around 10%.
Regular skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
The symptoms include skin nodules or wounds that fail to heal. Skin cancer is harmless. Most people recover, and the disease is rarely associated with serious complications.
UV radiation and free radicals can cause DNA damage to the skin
According to Professor Gary Halliday and his team of researchers at the University of Sidney, Australia, vitamin B3 contributes to the prevention of both regular skin cancer and melanoma, and the effect applies especially to those with an increased risk of developing the diseases.
Melanoma starts in a type of skin cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin, the pigment that protects the deeper-lying skin layers against harmful UV rays from the sun. Excessive UV exposure, however, bombards the skin with free radicals, which are aggressive molecules that cause local inflammation and damage to skin cell DNA. In time, the DNA damage increases the risk of uncontrollable cell division and the risk of developing skin cancer.
Sunscreen is not enough
Health authorities traditionally recommend sunscreen with a high sun factor for prevention of regular skin cancer and melanoma, but according to Professor Halliday, the advantages of using sunscreen are not that convincing. The contradictory evidence may be because people fail to apply sunscreen in the right amounts, but other things protect against skin cancer and melanoma, such as vitamin B3.
Vitamin B3 boosts the body’s repair of damaged skin cell DNA
Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid and nicotine amide) is primarily found in protein-containing foods like meat, fish, poultry, nuts, kernels, and seeds. Another option is to take a vitamin B3 supplement. Vitamin B3 is involved in the cellular energy metabolism and helps to replenish the energy stores of our cells, which excessive UV exposure tends to drain. By boosting cellular energy turnover with vitamin B3, our cells have greater potential to repair damaged DNA. This also contributes to reducing local inflammation caused by a stressed and overactive immune defense.
Significantly lower skin cancer risk
The new study that was conducted by Professor Halliday and his team of researchers includes 386 people who twice within the last five years had been diagnosed with regular skin cancer. The participants were divided in two groups. One group got 500 mg of vitamin B3 (as nicotine amide) daily for 12 months, while the other group got matching placebo (dummy pills).
In the course of the 12-month period, 23% fewer people in the vitamin B3 group developed regular skin cancer compared with the placebo group.
The researchers had no way of investigating vitamin B3’s effect on melanoma. This was partly due to the fact that there were too few people with this diagnosis. However, Professor Halliday and his colleagues state that the results of the study call for an investigation of whether vitamin B3 can also protect against melanoma, the potentially lethal skin cancer form.
In order to look closer at this, the scientists need more participants with an increased risk of melanoma such as e.g. people who have had the disease earlier in life or people who are genetically prone or have an increased risk for other reasons. It would also be necessary to carry out the study over a longer period of time, as it may take many years for melanoma to develop.
The scientists suggest that vitamin B3 be included as a valuable supplement for other types of precaution, including prudent sunbathing and correct use of sun factor crème whenever there is a risk of getting a sunburn.
On the other hand, it is important not fear the sun, as the sun is our primary source of vitamin D, which also has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
The study is published in the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine.
Prevention of regular skin cancer and melanoma
Honor Whiteman. Could vitamin B-3 help to prevent melanoma?
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