Skin cancer has been on the rise for many years. Without question the most effective way to prevent skin cancer is sun protection (sunscreen, sun protective clothes, hats, shade, and sun avoidance). Often patients who already practice good sun protection but still continue to get skin cancers will ask, “What else can I do?” Finally, we may have an additional safe treatment option to help prevent skin cancer in patients at high risk for additional skin cancers.
New data suggests that Vitamin B3 (also known as nicotinamide or niacinamide) may help to modestly decrease skin cancer risk without significant side effects. Data suggests that in patients with a history of skin cancer nicotinamide may reduce the frequency of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and precancerous lesions (actinic keratoses).
The mechanism of action for the protective effect of nicotinamide is thought to be related to its ability to facilitate repair of ultraviolet (UV) induced DNA damage. UV radiation causes DNA damage and if left unrepaired in some cases will result in genetic alterations in the skin cells (keratinocytes) that promote skin cancer. The DNA in the keratinocytes is constantly being repaired by the normal DNA repair processes, but the speed of repair is limited by the amount of cellular energy (stored as ATP). If energy stores are lacking, then repair will be limited and cancer causing genetic changes are more likely to persist in the cells. Nicotinamide is essential to ATP production and helps to replenish the ATP in the keratinocytes which is essential to the repair process.
Learn more about this new research into nicotinamide in the Spring 2016 issue of the “The Melanoma Letter” published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, available on their website.