Do you apply sunscreen each day before you head outdoors or to work?
If you’re like most people, you know your best defense against skin cancer is protecting your skin topically with sunscreen.
But, did you know that an often-overlooked way to prevent skin cancer is by fighting it from the inside with nutrition?
Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia just presented a study that found that taking an affordable, over-the-counter vitamin B3 supplement lowered the risk of skin cancer recurrence in those previously diagnosed with skin diseases.
“The form of vitamin B3, also known as nicotinamide, taken twice daily at 500mg, was linked to a 23% reduction of non-melanoma skin cancers.”
Nicotinamide also appeared to reduce the numbers of thick, scaly patches of skin that can become cancerous – by 11% at three months and by 20% at nine months. But it seemed that supplementation needed to be continued in order to see lasting benefits.
It’s important to note that nicotinamide has few side-effects and is very different from niacin, a more commonly known form of vitamin B3 that can cause headaches, flushed skin, and low blood pressure. In addition to supplements, nicotinamide can be found in trace amounts in meat, fish, nuts, and mushrooms.
And while nicotinamide or vitamin B3 is the latest nutrient getting attention for its potential benefits, four other common nutrients have also been linked to a reduced risk of skin cancer, and are worth noting:
A type of carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables their red-orange color, beta-carotene is a type of antioxidant that protects the body from cell-damaging free radicals. The body converts it into vitamin A (retinol), a necessary nutrient for healthy skin and healthy immune system, and eyes.
Getting adequate amounts of beta-carotene has been shown to help protect against sunburn – a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. An added benefit? It can help add a golden glow to skin! Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots are some of the foods highest in this essential nutrient.
Studies have shown that lutein, a carotenoid and antioxidant, modulates the skin’s response to UV radiation and can reduce UV-induced inflammation in sunburns. Foods highest in lutein include raw, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, dandelion and turnip greens.
Another potent antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage, vitamin C has been found to inhibit the proliferation of melanoma (the most dangerous type of skin cancer) cells. High vitamin C foods include citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, papaya, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, and dark leafy greens.
A fat-soluble antioxidant that’s especially great for the skin, vitamin E can absorb energy from UV light, helping with photoprotection and preventing UV-induced free radical damage to skin. It also has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin. Good sources of vitamin E include almonds, sunflower and other seeds, olive oil, and tofu.
More and more evidence shows that it’s not just about what you put on your skin – it’s also what you put in your body, and that starts with a diet rich in a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. So take the balanced approach, and be sure to take care of your skin from the inside out.
What steps are you taking on a daily basis to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays?