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Niacinamide for Skin Protection?

Niacinamide for Skin Protection?: Main Image
Be especially careful about sun exposure at high altitudes, in the snow, and on the beach
New research suggests that niacinamide (vitamin B3) has potential skin protection benefits. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that people who took daily niacinamide reduced the number of actinic keratoses (precursors to skin cancer) on their skin by more than 30%.

Niacinamide linked to fewer skin lesions

In this study, 76 healthy men and women (ages 48 to 90) who had at least four actinic keratoses were randomly assigned to receive 500 mg of niacinamide once daily or twice daily, or placebo for four months. All participants had skin examinations before the study and at two and four months.

Results showed that both niacinamide groups had about one-third fewer actinic keratoses at four months compared with the control group. The niacinamide group also had a lower risk of developing a new skin cancer lesion during the study period compared with the control group (11 placebo participants developed 20 new skin cancers and 2 niacinamide participants developed 4 cancers).

It isn’t exactly clear how niacinamide may help prevent lesions that may lead to skin cancer, but the study authors comment that niacinamide may help repair damaged DNA and help boost our immune system. They report that niacinamide is “highly immune protective in humans” and has been shown to prevent cancer in mice. Further research is needed about dosages and safety. Higher doses of niacinamide than those used in this study have been linked to a risk of liver damage.

Always talk with a doctor before starting a supplement to understand more about the risks and benefits.

Steps toward skin protection

Skin cancer is a common type of cancer, but the good news is that there are things we can do to help prevent them. Experts recommend these and other steps for protecting your skin:

  • Enjoy the sun but don’t overdo it. Avoid sunburns and blistering.
  • Avoid the sun and seek shade during peak hours (10 AM to 4 PM).
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply as needed.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses and consider other protective clothing—even long sleeves and pants.
  • Be especially careful about sun exposure at high altitudes, in the snow, and on the beach.
  • Have your skin checked regularly by a doctor.
  • Ask a doctor how to examine your own skin and what to look for in terms of suspicious moles or growths that could be cancer or turn into cancer

(J Invest Dermatol 2012;132:1497–500)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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