Researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia believe that nicotinamide (vitamin B3) can be used to prevent the incidence of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. The study, published in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, demonstrates the efficacy of vitamin B3 in reducing or even reversing DNA damage and inflammation caused by ultraviolet radiation. Authors of the review say that more research into the topic is necessary but conclude that should their data be further verified, it could lead to a cheap and potent solution to skin cancer.
The team noted that nicotinamide costs around $10 per month if taken at the recommended dosage of one gram a day. This is significantly less expensive than conventional cancer therapies, which usually include chemotherapy sessions and various forms of medications.
The vitamin therapy was observed to be effective in decreasing the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer among high-risk individuals. Dr. Gary Halliday, senior author of the study said that randomized placebo controlled trials are now needed to confirm a similar effect among high-risk melanoma patients.
A primer on vitamin B3 and melanoma
Vitamin B3 is known by many names including niacin, niacinamide, nicotinic acid, and nicotinamide. It can be sourced through the consumption of lean meats, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, and nuts. Most people, however, tend to get their vitamin B3 through supplements.
Vitamin B3 is essential for healthy nervous and digestive function and promotes skin health. Those with cholesterol problems can also take the vitamin to balance their triglyceride levels. There is some evidence that also points to the vitamin’s use in the production of bile salts and the synthesis of sex hormones.
Improves brain health
The vitamin is mostly recommended however for improving brain health. Certain psychiatric symptoms are claimed to be alleviated with an ample dose of vitamin B3. Preliminary studies also suggest that vitamin B3 can prevent dementia.
While no side-effects have been seen in taking niacin through food, sourcing the vitamin through supplements can lead to various adverse conditions. An overdose of niacin can lead to stomach irritation, nausea, liver damage, gout, and blurred vision.
Vitamin B3 and preventing cancer
Vitamin B3’s exact uses and functions are still being determined by medical science. One of the areas that scientists are looking into is the vitamin’s capacity to prevent cancer.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that usually forms on the skin. It begins when the pigment-producing cell, melanin, begins to mutate and multiply rapidly. Because melanoma forms on the skin, it is relatively easy to detect and treat early. Doctors say that 90 percent of all melanoma cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from natural and artificial sources, including indoor tanning beds. The remaining ten percent takes into account family history, genetics, and other environmental factors.
The prognosis for melanoma is normally good, although this depends on how early the cancer is detected.
It is important that you are aware of the warning signs of melanoma. This means consistently checking for abnormal moles, brown spots, or growths on the skin. Take note of these red flags:
- Asymmetry – Draw a line in the middle of a mole and see if both halves match. Moles that are asymmetrical are more likely to be cancerous.
- Border – Benign moles have smooth, even borders. Watch out for moles that have scalloped or notches borders.
- Color – Noncancerous moles are usually one color. Having a mole that has a variety of colors is a warning sign that something is wrong.
- Diameter – Malignant moles are normally larger than benign ones.
- Evolving – Moles that seem to change over time can be cancerous.