Can this vitamin really help protect against a type of skin cancer?

Can this vitamin really help protect against a type of skin cancer?

Summer beach days are over, but your risk for sunburn is still relevant during wintertime activities. If you plan to ski, hike or enjoy the outdoors this winter, it’s critical to continue to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to skin cancers, but there are several things you can do to protect yourself.

A recent observational study published in JAMA Dermatology found vitamin A intake may be associated to lowering the risk of skin cancer, specifically for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

SCC is the most second common skin cancer, and more than one million cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

In two long-term studies, researchers followed 48,400 men and 75,170 women over a period of more than 26 years.  A total of 3,978 SCC cases were reported.

Researchers found vitamin A in the diet was associated with lowering the risk for SCC.

Vitamin A is found in an variety of fruits and veggies including kale, broccoli and specifically those with orange or yellow pigments such as carrots and apricots.

“Research does suggest vitamin A, or retinoids, can influence DNA transcription in our cells. This influence can block malignant transformation of cells,” says Dr. Katherine Garrity, a dermatologist at Aurora Health Care. “Medications are developed with synthetic retinoids to treat certain types of skin cancers,” she explains.

With limited data points and uncontrollable variables, the study does not offer enough information to make the recommendation individuals should increase their vitamin A intake to prevent SCC, says Garrity.

“The study relied on participants’ self-reported eating habits and did not account for other sun-protective measures that participants took, which is an important confounding variable when looking for differences in rates of sun-induced skin cancers,” she states.

Garrity recommends the following tips to best protect your skin:

  • Use water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher (broad-spectrum indicates it will block both UVA and UVB light)
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after you swim or sweat
  • Avoid peak sun hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wear ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing, which is designed to protect against the sun’s harmful rays
  • Be mindful of reflective surfaces such as snow, sand and water, which can reflect more than half of the sun’s rays
  • Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to protect your face, nose and ears

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About the Author

Liz Fitzgerald
Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Fitzgerald, health enews contributor, is an integrated marketing coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from Marquette University.  Outside of work, Liz has a goal of visiting all U.S. national parks.