SYDNEY, May 15 (UPI) -- A relatively common, cheap vitamin has been found to reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers when taken on a regular basis, according to new research.
Nicotinamide, a form of the vitamin B3, boosts suppression of the immune system after exposure to ultraviolet light and enhanced DNA repair, seemingly preventing skin cancers in people who have previously had them.
"It's safe, it's almost obscenely inexpensive, and it's already widely commercially available," Dr. Diona Damian, a professor of dermatology at the University of Sydney, told Health Day. She added, however that more research is needed so "it's not something we'd recommend at this stage for the general population."
Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun can lead to developing skin cancer by damaging DNA in the skin and harming the skin's immune system. Nicotinamide has been shown to actually strengthen the skin's defense mechanisms, as well as helping skin cells repair DNA.
Four hundred patients were selected for the one-year study based on a history of having at least two non-melanoma skin cancers in the previous five years -- basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma -- with half receiving twice-daily doses of nicotinamide and the other half receiving a placebo.
"This reduction in skin cancers seemed to start as early as the first three-month visit," Damian said, with rates of new cancer down 23 percent among patients taking the vitamin as compared with those who were given nothing.
Researchers could see the effects of the vitamin on the patients' skin, in addition to finding lower levels of cancer. Once patients stopped taking the vitamin, followup exams found its effects disappeared.
The study, which has not yet been published, will be presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology on May 30.