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Are you a risk for skin cancer?

May 29, 2015 10:55 pm
Published by: Dr. Ann Lovick

The sun loves to shine in Arizona. And for those of us who live here year round, we rack up a lot of UV exposure.


According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, we should stay in the shade during peak sun exposure from 10am-4pm and always use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. And they advise not to intentionally suntan and to absolutely avoid sunburns whenever possible. (Yes, I was one of those dumbs teenagers who covered themselves in baby oil and laid out on a reflective blanket to get an “even tan.” And, yes, I cringe when I think about it now.)

So what is the one simple thing that you can do to reduce your risk of skin cancer? Take your vitamins.

Studies have shown that vitamin D is actually protective against skin cancer. Ironically, it is exposure to the sun that promotes our bodies’ production of vitamin D. The majority of my patients are low in this nutrient. They are always surprised and quickly list off all of their outdoor activities, wondering how they acquired this deficiency.

One of the theories is that it is actually the natural oil in our skin that converts sunlight to vitamin D, and most people shower daily and wash off those natural oils. Since I am a proponent for good hygiene, I always recommend that my patients take a vitamin D supplement.

Please note that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so take it with fish oil to increase your body’s absorption of this nutrient. I recommend a blood test to determine each patient’s nutrient status and vitamin dosing.

Niacin, also called B3, has been shown to reduce your risk of some of the more common forms of skin cancer by as much as 23%. In a recent study, niacinamide, which is a form of niacin that does not cause flushing, was given to study participants in Australia. New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. And this study indicates that a simple B vitamin can significantly reduce your cancer risk.

The flushing sensation caused by niacin can be unpleasant. For some people, it can cause mild warmth and redness. For others, it can make your skin feel sunburned before you even step foot on the beach. Niacinamide is not supposed to cause flushing. But I would start at 500mg and work up to 1000mg daily. And I always recommend patients take B vitamins in the morning with food.

Niacin and vitamin D have numerous benefits for your health. Always remember to take your vitamins, wear sunscreen, and schedule annual visits with your dermatologist. Your skin will thank you!