Sometimes, simple solutions provide big benefits. When it comes to preventing skin cancer, an affordable, over-the-counter vitamin supplement may reduce your risk of developing the most common forms of skin cancer.
While it doesn’t replace sunscreen, vitamin B3 — medically known as nicotinamide or niacinamide — is shown to reduce the occurrence of skin cancers, up to 23% in one study of high-risk patients.
When suspicious spots appear on your skin or the appearance of existing spots change, it’s time to visit Jennifer A. Baron, M.D., FAAD, FACMS for a full skin cancer evaluation. With early detection, skin cancer treatment has a high success rate, and Dr. Baron specializes in recognizing the earliest signs of the disease.
Preventing these changes in the first place is the best solution, so here’s what you need to know about nicotinamide.
What is nicotinamide?
If you don’t recognize the name, you likely have heard of niacin, another name for vitamin B3. Nicotinamide is a water soluble form of the vitamin, an important building block for continued skin health. Your body makes nicotinamide by processing the niacin in your diet, common in foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, grains, legumes, nuts, and processed foods that are fortified with B3.
How B3 helps your skin
Sun damage starts with exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) components of sunlight or from an artificial source like tanning booths. UV rays can damage the DNA in skin cells and reduce your skin’s natural ability to resist tumors. This can lead to precancerous conditions, such as actinic keratosis, or cancers including squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas.
Nicotinamide protects your skin by blocking some of the chemical changes that UV rays create. Skin cells become more energetic and they can better repair any sun damage to DNA. Your skin’s natural immune response remains strong, helping to resist future damage.
It’s important to note that nicotinamide creates chemical conditions that resist the effects of UV light. Unlike sunscreen, nicotinamide doesn’t add any barrier against UV rays.
Adding a nicotinamide supplement
B3 supplements made with nicotinamide are easy to tolerate. A typical dose is 500 milligrams, taken twice a day. It’s a common supplement and few patients have any negative reaction. Since it’s water soluble, excess amounts of nicotinamide are not stored in the body, so there’s no buildup of the substance over time.
To maintain the UV-fighting benefits, you must take nicotinamide supplements continuously, but since oral nicotinamide therapy helps people who have already had skin cancers, it’s a safe and inexpensive way to reduce the chances of future tumors.
Contact Jennifer A. Baron, M.D., FAAD, FACMS, by phone, email, or text to set up a consultation to learn more about oral nicotinamide or any other aspect of skin cancer prevention. Now is also the perfect time ahead of summer for a skin cancer screening if you’re overdue. Book your appointment now.