An Australian study found out that a form of Vitamin B3 can lower one's risk of developing skin cancer by 23 percent.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, followed by squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma, though rare, is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing one person every 57 minutes. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
Researchers at the University of Sydney involved 386 patients on the study. The participants were grouped into two categories: one to take nicotinamide and the other to take a placebo pill twice a day.
After the five-year follow-up period, the researchers found that the preventive effect of the vitamin B3 against skin cancer starts after three months of intake. The researchers observed that the basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas on those who took the vitamin were 23 percent lower compared to the placebo group. However, they also found that the benefit was immediately removed when the participants stopped taking the pill, thus a need for continuous treatment.
"This reduction in skin cancers seemed to start as early as the first three-month visit," Dr. Diona Damian, a professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney, said to HealthDay News.
The good news is that nicotinamide is cheaper and has lesser side effects compared to niacin, the commonly used form of vitamin B3. Nicotinamide is available at pharmacies and health stores for less than $10 per month.
"It's a cheap vitamin ... one could be generous about starting it early if that's a preference," Dr. Peter Paul Yu, ASCO president and director of cancer research at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, told Reuters Health.
The researchers clarified that they are recommending nicotinamide only to those who are at high risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, not to everyone. They also warned that people should continue using sun protection and seeing their doctors even if they are taking vitamin B3.
The study will be presented on May 30 at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.