People prone to skin cancer can reduce their risk with a widely available vitamin that's "almost obscenely inexpensive," a researcher says. The find comes from a clinical trial in which Australian patients who had had two or more cases of skin cancer in five years took twice-daily 500mg doses of a form of vitamin B3, known as nicotinamide. NBC News reports the patients had either basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas—the most common skin cancers in the US—which are less severe and more easily treatable than melanoma. In what an expert describes as "the first clear evidence that we can reduce skin cancers using a simple vitamin," the doses appeared to lower patients' risk of developing the cancers by 23%, with patients who took the vitamin developing an average of 1.77 new cancers over a year, compared to 2.42 in those who took placebos, the New York Times reports.
A patient's risk of developing actinic keratosis, which are scaly, pre-cancerous patches of skin, also dropped by 20% after nine months of nicotinamide treatment. Researchers say nicotinamide—which may work by protecting the immune system and repairing damage to DNA—didn't have the same side effects as pharmaceutical alternatives or other forms of vitamin B3, which experts not involved in the study say is "potentially important." However, the apparent benefits faded when patients stopped taking the vitamin. Experts warn nicotinamide should be taken only by those with frequent skin cancers and only after speaking with a doctor. In a separate study, an experimental drug for relapsed multiple myeloma was shown to lower the risk of cancer progression by about 30% when it was combined with existing drugs Revlimid and dexamethasone, the Times reports.