EXPERT REACTION: Could vitamin B protect people from melanoma?

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in the Australian population, and Australian scientists are suggesting vitamin B3 should be investigated as a low cost way of preventing melanoma in high risk individuals. A form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide can reduce or reverse DNA damage caused by UV radiation, and has been shown in human trials to prevent non-melanoma skin cancers. Now, the scientists say there should be clinical trials of nicotinamide for people at high risk of melanoma.

Journal/conference: Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine

Organisation/s: The University of Sydney

Media Release

From: Wiley-Blackwell

Vitamin Therapy May Help Prevent Melanoma

A new review highlights the potential of nicotinamide (Vitamin B3) for preventing melanoma in high-risk individuals.

Nicotinamide can help reduce or reverse DNA damage, inflammation, and immunosuppression caused by ultraviolet radiation.

The cost of nicotinatimide is approximately $10 per month if taken at 1g per day as recommended. Randomized placebo controlled trials are now warranted to determine its efficacy and safety for melanoma prevention.

“Nicotinamide has been show in a clinical trial—called ONTRAC—to reduce the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer in high-risk individuals and it would be worthwhile to determine whether it would also be useful for high-risk melanoma patients,” said Dr. Gary Halliday, senior author of the Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine review.


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Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Terry Slevin is Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Occupational and Environmental Cancer Risk Committee, and is President of the Public Health Association Australia

The paper makes a case for the establishment of clinical trials to test the theory that daily dose of B3* may reduce skin cancer in the future.  We’d welcome such a  trial but it is important to await the outcome of any trial before recommending B3 as a means of preventing skin cancer.
In the meantime, there is strong evidence of a reduction in Melanoma rates in the under 40 population in Australian, suggesting early skin cancer prevention efforts are having a measurable success, in the generation who grew up with “slip slop slap”.
So, until B3 trials can be conducted and reported, supporting and expanding the existing SunSmart prevention programs is an effective use of public money.
*Using the term B3 instead of Nicotinamide might help reduce confusion among some that NOT talking about nicotine – the addictive component of tobacco.  While their chemical structure might be similar (hence similar name) they are functionally very different. We don’t want smokers thinking their cigarettes are having a skin cancer prevention benefit!

Last updated: 09 Aug 2017 3:20pm

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