Can vitamins prevent skin cancer?

A recent study presented at a cancer conference made big news in the press in early May. This study looked at about four hundred people with a history of skin cancer and compared the effect of supplementing vitamin B3 on the development of new skin cancers (only basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, not melanoma).  They found that vitamin B3 did decrease the risk of developing a new skin cancer. The dose of vitamin B3 was 500 mg twice daily, much higher than the standard recommended amount (14-18 mg per day).

Vitamin B3 has been used in medicine for other uses for many years. It also is commonly referred to by the name niacin or niacinamide. In high doses, niacin can lower tryglycerides (an unhealthy type of fat in the blood). There are many other less well studied uses for vitamin B3, including osteoarthritis, alzheimers, diabetes, migraines, depression, PMS, anti-aging – the list goes on and on. Vitamin B3 is used in topical acne products for it’s anti inflammatory properties. In fact, vitamin B3 is in many of the EltaMD products that I use (and love) such as EltaMD Uv Clear and the AM/PM moisturizers.

Vitamin B3 is considered safe but can cause side effects when taken as a supplement and can interact with medications.  The most common side effect is flushing. At high doses (3 grams per day) it can cause serious problems such as liver problems, heart problems and others. Certain conditions such as heart disease,diabetes, liver and kidney disease (and others) may be worsened by higher doses of vitamin B3. Additionally, vitamin B3 can have serious interactions with many medications.

So will I recommend that all my patients take extra vitamin B3? Probably not. The population who may benefit is the person who has had several previous basal or squamous cell carcinoma or is at high risk for those conditions (such as those who are immune suppressed). However, in the doses needed to have a beneficial effect on skin cancer, vitamin B3 is a serious medication and should be considered such. I don’t recommend starting the supplement yourself at the higher dose, without discussing with both your dermatologist and your regular doctor.

I welcome any questions or comments on this interesting topic. 


Sunscreen for sensitive skin

Sunscreen Favorites

Summer season can be difficult for those of us “rashy” and breakout-prone people. I count myself as both and my kids are so rashy I actually got called by the school when my son had a reaction to sunscreen (that was not supposed to be used on him).

Through trial and error, research and rashes I have found a few sunscreens that don’t cause rashes or breakouts (for me or my kids). Here they are.

1. Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46. This is my favorite facial sunscreen. It is specially formulated for acne and rosacea (ie rashy) prone skin. While it contains zinc and titanium, they are micronized so it doesn’t look white.

2. Elta MD UV Physical SPF 41. A close second for my favorite facial sunscreen. It contains only zinc and titanium and has a light tint. It doesn’t leave a white glow.

3. Elta MD UV Pure SPF 47. This is a thick white paste, but it protects well and doesn’t cause rashes. It will leave you looking white and also leave white marks on your leather couches, the car and anything else your kid touches (my husband hates this).

4. Blue Lizard Sensitive SPF 30 +. Again, only zinc and titanium. This stuff is seriously thick. It is made by the Aussie’s who are experts in this arena. I order it from Amazon in bulk. Again, my husband hates it.

5.Jason Kids Sunscreen SPF 45. This sunscreen is not as thick and will rub in. I used it for two years on my kids before it caused a rash- you might have better luck.

i have tried many neutrogena, Alba and skinceuticals- and they all caused a rash in me or my kids, however you may have better luck. In general sunscreen that contains only zinc and titanium are less likely to cause rashes. However, be aware of the other ingredients (such as vitamin E, essential oils, paraffin, fragrances) can cause rashes.

Good luck to all my rashy and sensitive readers. Hats and rash guards are never a problem for me.

Let me know if you find a sunscreen I should add to my list.