Can vitamin B3 reduce my skin cancer risk?

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer before, your doctor may have recommended vitamin B3 to help reduce your risk of recurring cancers. How does vitamin B3 assist with skin cancer prevention?

Does vitamin B3 reduce skin cancer risk?

Vitamin B3 – also known as nicotinamide – is a simple and inexpensive treatment that can reduce the risk of developing a new basal cell carcinoma (BCC) by 20% and a new squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by 30%.

These benefits are only seen in patients who have already had two or more skin cancers. In fact, the more skin cancers you have had, the more helpful vitamin B3 is for preventing recurrence. The benefit of B3 in high-risk patients ends within weeks of stopping the supplement.

Vitamin B3 is not helpful if you are also immunocompromised.

How does vitamin B3 prevent new skin cancers from forming?

Skin cancer occurs when UV radiation damages the skin’s natural ability to repair damage, which can lead to uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells. Vitamin B3 helps to repair this damage and reduce the risk of further skin cancers by increasing the energy available to cells, helping repair the damaged cell DNA and reducing the immune suppression caused by UV radiation.

Vitamin B3 can also help your body to heal pre-cancerous scaly sunspots.

Can vitamin B3 prevent skin cancer if I haven’t had it yet?

Vitamin B3 has not been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer or sunspots in people who have not had skin cancer before. Therefore, your doctor is unlikely to recommend B3 as a skin cancer prevention method.

Does niacinamide prevent melanoma?

In theory, vitamin B3 should have the same effect on reducing recurring melanoma, however there are no studies to support this yet. This is mostly because melanoma is less common than BCC and SCC, so medical researchers haven’t been able to collect significant evidence.

What else is vitamin B3 useful for?

When applied directly to the skin as a cream, vitamin B3 has numerous benefits, including:

  • Reducing visible signs of sun damage and ageing such as pigmentation and fine wrinkles
  • Reducing blotchiness
  • Increasing the skin’s elasticity
  • Improving the skin’s healing after excisions

How much niacinamide should I take for skin cancer?

Vitamin B3 is present in small amounts in yeast, meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts, legumes and cereals. However, even a balanced diet rich in these foods will fall short of the B3 levels required to reduce your risk of ongoing skin cancer.

For the prevention of recurring BCC, SCC and pre-cancerous sunspots; the most effective dose of vitamin B3 is as a nicotinamide 500mg tablet, twice daily.

Vitamin B3 is often listed as niacinamide in product descriptions.

Are there any side effects associated with vitamin B3?

Side effects are very rare from nicotinamide at the recommended dose of 500mg twice daily. In dosages higher than this, some people will experience nausea, gastrointestinal side effects, and temporary affects to liver function.

Can vitamin B3 cure skin cancer?

It is important to remember that B3 does not cure cancer, cannot prevent all cancers and should never be used as a substitute for sunscreen and other protective measures. Sunscreen remains more helpful than vitamin B3 and should be continued in addition to it. Always minimise your exposure to sunlight in order to prevent sun damage.

Read another blog: Why are skin checks so important in winter?

Sources:

  • Chen, Andrew C, et al. A phase 3 randomized trial of nicotinamide for skin-cancer chemoprevention. The New England Journal of Medicine. [Online] 22 October 2015.
  • Canfell, Karen. The role of vitamin B3 in reducing non-melanoma skin cancer. Cancer Council Australia. [Online] 24 January 2017.

Written by National Skin Cancer Centres