Can diet and supplements reduce sun damage and skin cancer?- Alyssa Braun, BA, and Anne Marie McNeill, MD, PhD

Most Southern California residents are aware that the sun has harmful rays that can be detrimental to the skin; however, this knowledge can’t compete with the enjoyment of spending time outside. Despite our efforts to be prudent when it comes to wearing sunscreen (and reapplying every 3-4 hours!), the CDC reports that the incidence of skin cancer has nearly doubled over the past twenty years (, 2019). Additionally, 60% of people who have had one type of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma) will develop a second one within ten years (Bain, 2017). Furthermore, for anyone who has been diagnosed with a subsequent skin cancer, there is a 61.5% chance of developing yet another within just two years. These statistics suggest that patients with previous BCC, SCC, and melanoma diagnoses are at high risk and should be aware of their skin protection and cancer prevention efforts. Although many of us are educated when it comes to sun exposure and the use of sunscreen, there are additional options (Ruiz, 2018).
In addition to using sunscreen and seeking shade, there are four other options people can consider to prevent skin cancer: Nicotinamide, NSAIDs, Polypodium leukotomos (Heliocare), and decreased alcohol consumption. Each of these additions to daily sunscreen is backed by research, which suggests a 15% – 43% decrease in the risk for skin cancer if used. Below are some fast facts about each of these preventive methods:
over-the-counter vitamin taken twice daily
a form of Vitamin B3 that is effective against the UV damage caused by sun exposure
reduces risk of BCC and SCC by 23%
generally very safe, except contradicted in patients with liver disease, active peptic ulcer, or severe hypotension
**must be taken continuously to maintain the effects
counteracts inflammation and pain
inhibits an enzyme that is overexpressed in SCC
over-the-counter aspirin/Ibuprofen
reduces risk of SCC by 15% – 18%; may reduce risk of melanoma by 0% – 43%
**overuse of NSAIDs is risky and can cause ulcers and many other complications
Polypodium leukotomos (Heliocare)
powerful antioxidant harvested from a South American tropical fern that protects the skin against UV rays, pollution, and free radicals with bonus anti-aging properties
Regular Heliocare: great for low-risk patients wanting extra protection for a day in the sun or while on vacation
Advanced Heliocare (contains Nicotinamide): for high-risk patients, with a history of skin cancer, looking to prevent reoccurrences and improve skin
over-the-counter vitamin taken as needed prior to and throughout a day of intense sun exposure or twice daily for enhanced skin resilience
can accelerate the results of anti-aging, melasma, vitiligo, and hyperpigmentation treatments when used in conjunction with your current regimen
beneficial for patients on sun-sensitive medications including Accutane or doxycycline
reduces risk of BCC and SCC by up to 30% and of AK’s by up to 20% (, 2019)
**does not replace the use of sunscreen & protective clothing
Decreased Alcohol intake
daily intake can increase risk for BCC and SCC by 7 – 11% and melanoma by 20%, and continues to increase with each drink
drinking alcoholic beverages can dehydrate the skin and deprive of vital nutrients
by limiting your daily alcohol intake, you may be lowering your risk for developing skin cancer
Here at NBDPS, we are advocates for protecting the skin and preventing skin cancer from occurring, or reoccurring, while still making the most of time outdoors. We recommend wearing sunscreen daily to protect the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. In addition, we suggest additional preventive measures for our high risk patients including taking 500mg of Nicotinamide twice daily, using Heliocare prior to and throughout any day of extensive sun exposure, and decreasing alcohol consumption.
Bain, J. (May 9, 2019). More than One? Skin Cancer Foundation. Retrieved from
CDC (2019). Skin Cancer Statistics. Retrieved from (2019). Scientific Publications. Retrieved from heliocare/scientific-publications/
Ruiz, E. M.D. (April 27, 2018). Four ways to protect against skin cancer (other than sunscreen). Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from other-than-sunscreen-2018042713722

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