Vitamin B3 (nicotinamide, also called niacinamide) may offer protection for those who are prone to certain skin cancers. Patients with squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma who took B3 were 23% less likely to have another cancer diagnosed. In a recent study, Australian researchers tested 386 people who had already been diagnosed with skin cancer—either squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma. These are extremely common and slow-growing cancers, much less serious than melanoma.
The volunteers took either two 500 mg Vitamin B3 pills or a placebo a day for a year. After a year, those who took the B3 were 23% less likely to have another skin cancer diagnosed.
“What research is showing us about the positive links between nutrition and various skin conditions is very encouraging. It allows new approaches to helping our patients manage their skin conditions.”
– Russell Peckham, DO, FAAD, Board-Certified Dermatologist, Dermatology Associates of Central Texas, Round Rock
The treatment also reduced the number of precancerous lesions called actinic keratoses. Most often, actinic keratoses develop slowly and reach a size from an eighth to a quarter of an inch. Early on, they may disappear only to reappear later. Most become red, but some will be light or dark tan, pink, red, a combination of these or the same color as your skin. Occasionally, they itch or produce a pricking or tender sensation. They can also become inflamed and surrounded by redness. In rare instances, actinic keratoses can even bleed.
These thick, scaly patches of skin were reduced by 20% among the volunteers who took niacinamide, Vitamin B3, after nine months of treatment.
Those who took niacinamide started seeing results in about three months. However, the protection ended once they stopped taking the vitamin, so to reap the rewards, you’d have to continue taking it indefinitely.
It’s thought that niacinamide works by helping repair DNA damage caused by excessive UV exposure and by bolstering your immune system.
Currently, it’s recommended that the supplement be taken by those who are at high risk for skin cancer. It’s still unknown whether it might confer protection against skin cancer among the general population.
Importantly, this study looked at the effect of niacinamide (nicotinamide), not niacin, on skin cancer. Niacin is closely related but because of potential side effects and medication interactions, we do not recommend niacin supplementation for skin cancer prevention at this time. Niacinamide and nicotinamide are inexpensive and may be purchased in grocery and health food stores, but you may need to ask the pharmacist to order them for you.
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