Niacin (vitamin B3) can prevent melanoma, scientists confirm

Although research is still in progress, there is currently no single drug or combination of drugs that can effectively treat the deadliest form of skin cancer known as melanoma. Fortunately, a recent study has shown that vitamin B3, or niacin, may play an important role in the prevention and progression of the disease.

In a review of studies published in the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine, researchers at the University of Sydney concluded that the active form of vitamin B3 known as nicotinamide may prevent melanoma. In addition, they found that nicotinamide, also known as niacinamide, enhances DNA repair in response to UV (ultraviolet) exposure. Melanoma starts in the melanocytes, the skin cells that produce melanin, the protective pigment. Exposure to UV radiation from sunlight is a known risk factor for melanoma as it damages cell DNA.

Diona Damian, a co-author of the study, reported that nicotinamide re-fill energy stores of keratinocytes, or epidermal skin cells, reduced by sun exposure. This enables them to repair DNA damage more efficiently. Moreover, nicotinamide lessens inflammation, which is another risk factor for cancer. It does this by inhibiting synthesis of inflammatory substances, such as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Furthermore, vitamin B3 helps lessen the immune suppressive effects of sunlight on skin.

They also discovered that nicotinamide can suppress vascular mimicry. Vascular mimicry enables melanoma and other tumor cells to form tubular networks that can look like normal venous networks. It is not only important for tumor growth, but is also associated with more aggressive tumors.

Nicotinamide was also found to cause more death of melanoma cells, which impairs their ability to spread and multiply. Additionally, it regulated the activity of sirtuin1, an enzyme involved in cancer growth. The vitamin also reduces the incidence of actinic keratosis, which are precancerous growths that appear in sun-exposed areas of the body.

Another study also discovered that nicotinamide prevents other skin cancers. In the study, the researchers recruited 386 participants and gave them either a placebo or 500 milligrams (mg) of nicotinamide twice every day for one year.

Results revealed that the vitamin significantly decreased the rates of the two most common types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. For basal cell carcinomas, a 20-percent reduction was seen, while there was a 30-percent reduction in squamous cell carcinomas. Furthermore, no adverse effect was seen with the supplementation of nicotinamide.

Other health benefits of vitamin B3

Niacin is an essential nutrient not only for its skin cancer-prevention benefits, but for every part of the body. Here are other health benefits that vitamin B3 can provide:

  • Aids in digestion – Vitamin B3 aids in the normal functioning of the digestive system, promoting a healthy appetite and glowing skin.
  • Supports skin health – Niacin helps in protecting the skin from sun damage. It is also used as an ingredient of some cosmetic products for anti-aging.
  • Relieves the symptoms of arthritis – The vitamin improves joint mobility and fights inflammation caused by arthritis.
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease – Niacin helps in the regulation of cholesterol levels in the body. Moreover, it suppresses oxidative stress and inflammation, which are harmful for the heart as they harden arteries and block blood flow.
  • Supports mental health – Niacin supplements are often used to treat mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Patients of depression tend to be deficient in niacin. (Related: Niacin, vitamin B3, may improve cognitive and physical function by preventing neurological damage.)

Foods that are good sources of niacin include fish, nuts, chicken, beets, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish, green vegetables, and lean meats. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it can travel through the human blood stream, and the excess can be discharged through urine. It can also be taken into solid or liquid form, which makes it easier to consume it every day.

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