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Could Nicotinamide Help Prevent Some Skin Cancers?

More studies need to be done, but the possibility of simply taking 500 mg twice a day of nicotinamide (a vitamin B3 derivative) to reduce the incidence of basal and squamous cell carcinoma is exciting. Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. From Medical Xpress:

Study: Vitamin B3 may help prevent certain skin cancers

For the first time, a large study suggests that a vitamin might modestly lower the risk of the most common types of skin cancer in people with a history of these relatively harmless yet troublesome growths.

In a study in Australia, people who took a specific type of vitamin B3 for a year had a 23 percent lower rate of new skin cancers compared to others who took dummy pills. In absolute terms, it meant that vitamin takers developed fewer than two of these cancers on average versus roughly 2.5 cancers for the others.The study did not involve melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Instead, it aimed at more common forms—basal and squamous cell cancers. He and other doctors with the oncology group said the vitamin, called nicotinamide, could offer a cheap, easy way to lower risk.

The study involved 386 people who had at least two skin cancers in the previous five years. They took either 500 milligrams of the vitamin or dummy pills twice a day for a year. Neither they nor their doctors knew who got what until the study ended.

Besides reducing the rate of skin cancers, vitamin use also seemed to cut the rate of precancers—scaly patches of skin called actinic keratoses—by 11 percent after three months of use and 20 percent after nine months. Participants were tracked for six months after they stopped taking their pills, and the rate of new skin cancers was similar in both groups. "The benefit wears off fairly quickly," Damian said. "You need to continue taking the tablets for them to continue to be effective."

Nicotinamide is thought to help repair DNA in cells damaged by sun exposure. It is not the same as nicotine, the addictive stuff in tobacco. It's also not the same as niacin and some other forms of B3, which can cause flushing, headaches and blood pressure problems. Those problems were not seen with nicotinamide in the study. Nicotinamide is sold over the counter, is easy to take, and "there are essentially no side effects," Schilsky said.

 Credit: WebMD, Healthwise, Inc.