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A Simple Vitamin and Sensible Skin Protection May Reduce Skin Cancers

In the United States, about 5 million people each year are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer and nonmelanoma skin cancer is also the most common cancer worldwide.


Findings from the Australian ONTRAC (Oral Nicotinamide to Reduce Actinic Cancer) study, presented at American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 Annual Meeting, showed that patients who took nicotinamide 500 mg twice daily for 1 year showed a 23% reduction in new diagnoses of nonmelanoma skin cancer, compared with those who took placebo (P = .02). Specifically, new diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma were reduced by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 30%, and actinic keratoses by 13%.


Oral Nicotinamide is an inexpensive vitamin B₃ product, widely available over the counter. Study participants took 500 mg twice daily. “This is an affordable chemoprevention strategy which can be instantly translated into clinical practice,” said senior study author and professor of Dermatology Diona Damian, MBBS, PhD, who presented the findings on behalf of her colleagues at the University of Sydney at a presscast held in advance of the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting.


The research team designed a phase III, double-blind, randomized controlled trial involving 386 patients who had at least two prior skin cancers in the past 5 years (mean = 8; range 2-52); approximately two-thirds of the participants were men, and the median age was 66 (range, 30-91 years). Many of the patients had ongoing medical issues, such as heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, and chronic lung disease. “Interestingly, this reduction in skin cancers seemed to start at the first 3-month visit,” said Damian. “However, when people stopped taking the vitamin after 12 months, the benefit was no longer seen.”


Further studies are planned to determine if nicotinamide can help reduce skin cancers in people with suppressed immune systems. People with suppressed immune systems have skin cancer rates up to 50 times higher than those with normal immune systems.


By: Wendy Meltzer, MPH



[ Image by Asimulator ]


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