Vitamin B3 for Skin Cancer Prevention?
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
With summer upon us, you’re probably eager to get back to enjoying your favorite outdoor activities. But all this “fun in the sun” also may increase your risk for skin cancer – even if you make sure to wear a broad-brim hat and slather yourself with sun block. So, what else can you do to help protect yourself and your family from the damaging rays of the sun? Well, according to recent research from the University of Sydney, you may want to consider adding vitamin B3 to your sun protection arsenal.
This is especially true if you have had skin cancer in the past. This type of cancer is the most common in the U.S., with an estimated 20 percent (or one in five) of us developing skin cancer during our lifetimes. So, anything else we can do to prevent a recurrence, or developing it in the first place, is indeed welcome news.
In one study, participants who took a dose of 500mg of vitamin B3 for a year experienced a reduction of 23 percent in the rate of new non-melanoma skin cancers. Another type of skin cancer, known as basal cell carcinoma, was reduced by 20 percent. And squamous cell carcinomas were reduced by 30 percent. A small group of people even had a reduction of up to 75 percent. It also reduced the incidence of pre-cancerous sun spots by approximately 15 percent.
One important takeaway from this study is that vitamin B3 seems to work best with people who have previously had a bout with skin cancer.
Vitamin B3 may help decrease skin cancer risk by repairing the damage done by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Researchers believe it does this by reducing the inflammation caused by UV radiation and helping repair damaged DNA in skin cells. Chronic inflammation may weaken your immune system which, in turn, may increase your risk for skin and other cancers.
Despite this promising research, vitamin B3 is not a cure for skin cancer and will not be effective in preventing all skin cancers. You also need to remember that should you and your doctor agree that vitamin B3 makes sense for you in reducing your risk for skin cancer, it won’t prevent sunburn. Research also indicated that the potential reduction in skin cancer risk only lasts for as long as you are taking vitamin B3.
You should talk with your doctor or another competent health practitioner if you notice any changes in your skin. While these changes may be due to any number of causes, it’s always a good idea to have them checked and evaluated.
Look for One Specific Form of Vitamin B3
There are three types of vitamin B3: niacin, niacinamide and inositol hexaniacinate (also called “no flush niacin”). Niacin is important for your digestive system, skin, and nervous system. However, higher doses of niacin (such as from a prescription) can cause a flushing of the skin. In the case of flushing from niacin, your doctor may suggest inositol hexaniacinate -- niacin combined with inositol (vitamin B8). This is one way to get the niacin without the flushing side effect.
Niacinamide is the version of vitamin B3 which may reduce risk for skin cancer. It is also used to treat the skin conditions bullous pemphigoid and granuloma annulare. It is also used topically for inflammatory acne vulgaris, though the National Institutes of Health noted there is not yet enough evidence to rank the effectiveness of this treatment. It may even be used to treat diabetes.
As a bonus, niacinamide may improve wrinkles. Aged skin has less nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide in it. The theory is supplementing with niacinamide may help replenish these levels, which then helps repair cellular dysfunction. Topical niacinamide cream has also been shown to possibly help improve skin healing after removal of a skin cancer.
You can get niacinamide from foods such as fish, meat, mushrooms, milk, grains and nuts. However, as part of a cancer risk reduction regimen, your doctor may recommend a higher amount than you can get through diet alone. In this case, your doctor may prescribe supplementation.How to be Proactive
Vitamin B3 isn’t the only nutrient that may help protect you against skin cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports nutrients and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin A, selenium, lycopene, omega-3 fatty acids, and folic acid may help protect against skin cancer. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study which suggests your daily coffee or tea habit may benefit you with anticarcinogenic effects and reduce your risk of developing melanoma.
Mushrooms may also help reduce your cancer risk. According to a study conducted by Penn State University, consuming a higher quantity of mushrooms may be associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. Basically, the results revealed that people who consumed 18 grams (which is really not a lot, less than a cup) of mushrooms daily had a 45 percent lower risk of cancer compared to people who did not eat mushrooms. Another food that may reduce your cancer risk is red and black beans.
The good news is that in general you can help protect your body against all forms of cancer and other serious diseases such as dementia by eating plenty of whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals (antioxidants). Limiting processed and ultra-processed foods is imperative (these foods are inflammation promoting), and eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is key.
There are also foods that can help protect against skin sun damage in general. These include watermelon, carrots, leafy greens, cauliflower, blueberries, and nuts and seeds.
Finallym never underestimate the importance of taking routine nutrient tests to determine if you have any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. It is harder for our immune systems to work at their full potential and fight off disease if we are not nutritionally balanced. If the test reveals you are not balanced, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements where appropriate.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.