[5 min read] Can vitamin B3 reduce non-melanoma skin cancer risk?

Skin cancer has been dubbed Australia’s ‘national cancer’, accounting for four times as many diagnoses as all other cancers put together. Finding ways to prevent skin cancer is a hot topic, and was the subject of a study conducted by a research team at the University of Sydney. As it is known that UV radiation causes DNA damage and also suppresses the innate immune response of the skin, the researchers sought to find compounds that could negate this process – specifically vitamin B3.

How does nutrition play a part?

In their breakthrough study and subsequent clinical trial, the researchers found that nicotinamide (vitamin B3) provided the shield that the skin’s immune response needed against non-melanoma skin cancers, essentially providing extremely efficient DNA repair via cellular energy.

The team proved that vitamin B3 applied topically or ingested as a daily tablet was effective at helping this cellular energy replenishment and DNA repair. The results of the landmark trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and made quite a stir internationally.

How to take vitamin B3

Since this supplement is widely and inexpensively available as an over-the-counter medication, it makes sense for patients at high risk of skin cancer to regularly take it. In fact, in a large-scale phase 3 trial of people who had previously been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers, the rate of these cancers was found to be reduced by 23 per cent by the use of vitamin B3.

Should everyone take vitamin B3?

For patients at lower risk of skin cancer, there is no need to start on this supplement unless otherwise indicated; it hasn’t been proven to reduce the risk for this group.

For those at high risk of non-melanoma cancers, the recommendation is a 500mg tablet, twice daily.

It is often more appealing for patients to eat their way to better health through vegetables and fruit, but this is not enough for prevention. The supplementation is needed at the correct dose.

Thanks to this research, there is preventive hope for Australians living with the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.


Learn more in the Professional Diploma Program in Medical Nutrition.

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