As summer approaches, skin cancer public health awareness campaigns are reminding us to wear sunscreen and cover up with a hat and long sleeves. Now, a new study shows that to protect yourself from melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer—you should also consider taking vitamin A.
For this study, which appeared in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers followed nearly 70,000 people over a five-year period. What they found is vitamin A (retinol) supplements reduced the risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent. Interestingly, they also found that the protective effects of vitamin A were stronger in women than men.
What’s also important to note is that eating foods rich in vitamin A and/or beta-carotene didn’t lower skin cancer risk. So to get these cancer-protective benefits you need to take a multivitamin that includes both vitamin A and beta-carotene. Since supplement labels are required to lump beta-carotene and vitamin A together, look for retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate, the most common forms of retinol. Just make sure to not exceed a daily dose of 10,000 IU (3,000 mcg).
There’s no question that when it comes to skin cancer an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. Although I believe everyone should spend some time in the sun several days a week to boost vitamin D levels, you can certainly get too much of a good thing.
After 10 or 15 minutes in the sun, I suggest you cover up and apply a full-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UV-A and UV-B rays. And given these new research findings you should definitely consider taking extra vitamin A.
Now it’s your turn: How do you protect your skin from the sun?