Nicotinamide- a mighty B vitamin!

b3 vitamins healthy skin nicotinamide preventative medicine skin cancer prevention skin cancers skin health vitamins for the skin Oct 17, 2022

Most people take at least one vitamin on a daily basis and there’s now a pill that could help you prevent skin cancers and precancers!

This is exciting news for people afflicted with numerous skin cancers and precancers looking for a way to prevent future skin cancers above and beyond sun protection measures.

What is this B vitamin called nicotinamide?

Nicotinamide is the active form of B3, a vitamin that plays many important roles in the body. While the name may sound similar to nicotine, it has absolutely no association or similarity to nicotine! It is also separate and distinct from niacin which is another form of B3 and used to treat different conditions. Niacin has a distinct side effect of flushing (redness of the face) when taken and fortunately, this doesn’t happen when you take nicotinamide.

Can you get nicotinamide without a supplement?

While nicotinamide is found in many foods that we eat as part of a balanced diet such as fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, and cereal grains, to get the levels recommended for skin benefits, you need a higher dose than is possible from diet alone.

What are the skin benefits of nicotinamide?

Nicotinamide has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties in acne, rosacea and other skin conditions for decades. Recently, studies have shown that nicotinamide can help the skin repair itself and subsequently reduce the number of skin cancers and precancers in high risk individuals.

A study in Australia found that taking high dose nicotinamide (500mg twice a day) reduced one’s risk of skin cancer by 20-30% and reduced precancers (actinic keratoses) in individuals taking this supplement.

While this is exciting news for people with skin cancer, high dose nicotinamide is not for everyone. Your doctor may recommend taking nicotinamide if you have had 2 or more non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal or squamous cell carcinomas.

Nicotinamide however is NOT a magic pill! You still must practice excellent sun protection. It’s just one more tool in our armamentarium to help prevent and reduce skin cancer in certain high-risk patients.

What are the side effects of nicotinamide?

Typically, it’s tolerated well in most people; however, some side effects can occur such as headaches, fatigue and stomach upset. Usually, these resolve when one stops taking the medication.

While nicotinamide is over the counter, it doesn’t mean it is safe for anyone and everyone to take. Be sure to discuss with your doctor if nicotinamide is right for you.

For more info, check out my podcast #11 where I discuss Nicotinamide with dermatologist and skin cancer expert, Dr. Hari Nadiminti.