Scientists from the University of Sydney found that vitamin B3 supplements could help reduce skin cancer risk in people with a high risk of the disease.
Vitamin B3 can be found in many foods including meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereals.
It is required for the function of fats and sugars in the body and to maintain healthy cells.
Vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to confusion (dementia), diarrhea, peeling red skin, and tongue redness/swelling.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. The main types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers are common cancers that are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Previous research has found that vitamin B3 has protective effects against damage caused by UV radiation.
In the current study, the team tested 386 people who had had at least two nonmelanoma skin cancers in the previous 5 years.
These people receive 500 mg of nicotinamide (a water-soluble vitamin B3) twice daily or a placebo for 12 months.
(A placebo is a sham substance or treatment which is designed to have no known therapeutic value. They are used to help test the effectiveness of a new health care treatment, such as a medication.)
Dermatologists examined these people at 3-month intervals for 18 months. Researchers focused on the number of new nonmelanoma skin cancers during the 12-month intervention period.
The team found that at 12 months, the risk of new nonmelanoma skin cancers was lower by 23% in the vitamin B3 group than in the placebo group.
Similar differences were found between the vitamin B3 group and the placebo group with respect to new basal-cell carcinomas and new squamous-cell carcinomas.
In addition, people who took the vitamin B3 supplement showed a lower risk of precancer symptoms (actinic keratoses, a rough, scaly patch on the skin caused by years of sun exposure).
The number was 11% lower in the vitamin B3 group than in the placebo group at 3 months, 14% lower at 6 months, 20% lower at 9 months, and 13% lower at 12 months.
After the vitamin B3 treatment was stopped, the team found no evidence of benefit.
These findings suggest that vitamin B3 supplement was a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancers and precancer symptoms in people with a high risk.
Researchers suggest that vitamin B3 can help prevent the UV radiation-induced cell energy crisis. This enhances DNA repair and reduces UV-induced suppression of immunity.
The research is published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by Andrew Chen et al.
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