A study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) 51st Annual Meeting found that an over-the-counter form of vitamin B3 significantly reduced rates of new non-melanoma skin cancers in high-risk patients, which along with sun protection could help to decrease the health and economic burden of skin cancer.

The Oral Nicotinamide to Reduce Actinic Cancer (ONTRAC) Study consisted of a double-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 386 patients in two tertiary centers in Sydney, Australia from 2012–2014 who had received two or more confirmed diagnoses of non-melanoma skin cancers in the past five years. Patients received oral nicotinamide 500mg twice a day or placebo for 12 months; mean patient age was 66 years and two-thirds of the participants were male. The primary endpoint was the number of new non-melanoma skin cancers and secondary endpoints included the number of squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), and actinic keratoses (AKs).

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Rates of new non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses were 23% lower in the nicotinamide arm vs. placebo and the number of actinic keratoses were reduced in the nicotinamide group by 11% at three months, and 20% at nine months. Nicotinamide appeared to have similar efficacy in preventing SCCs and BCCs.

This research supports previous findings suggesting that nicotinamide may enhances DNA repair in skin cells damaged by sunlight and offer protection to the skin’s immune system against UV light. Future studies will explore the efficacy of nicotinamide in reducing the risk of skin cancers in patients with suppressed immune systems.

For more information visit ASCO.org.