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Skin Cancer Prevention…Beyond Sunscreen

June 27, 2016

We all know that to prevent skin cancer, we need to reduce sun exposure.  But for people who have already had skin cancer, who are at a high risk for skin cancer (like transplant recipients, redheads, etc etc), sun reduction may not be enough.  And even for those of us who had not had skin cancer, we want to avoid the aging effects of the sun.  Two supplements may help:

Nicotinamide, AKA Niacinamide is the AMIDE chemical  form of Niacin AKA Nicotinic Acid AKA Vitamin B3.  Diona Damian, PhD and her colleagues in Sydney, Australia have shown in a study that 500 mg twice a day reduces the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer).  There are no studies on melanoma reduction yet.  Nicotinamide does not cause flushing and nausea like Niacin does.  Notably, 500 mg 3 times a day did NOT protect more so don’t overdo it.  And if you are like me, and taking anything twice a day is not going to happen, 500 mg once a day did give some protection, not as much as twice a day.  The researchers postulate that Nicotinamide works by reducing sun-induced immune suppression and by enhancing DNA repair of damaged skin cells that could become cancerous if they were not repaired.

I have written about Polypodium Leucotomos before, so I will recap.  It is a fern whose protective effects from the sun, both UVA and UVB,  have been studied.To summarize what it does:

It is available without a prescription – the 2 you are most likely to find are Heliocare and FernBlock. I recommend taking one every morning when you know you are going to get a lot of sun. It is very useful for patients who are “allergic to the sun” and get rashes from exposure. But remember!!! This pill is not a get-out-of-jail-free card where you can go out and bake with no consequences!!! You still need to LIMIT sun exposure, and use an SPF 30 sunscreen, preferably a non-chemical one with the minerals zinc or titanium.

Happy Summer!