TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area doctor is recommending a specific vitamin to help prevent non-melanoma skin cancers in those who are at risk. The recommendation was formed through research conducted throughout the world.
Dr. Alison Calkins spent 25 years on staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital before moving to Lake County and spending three years at Tampa General Hospital. She was then offered a job at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology and said she, “snapped up the opportunity.”
She said she saw very aggressive skin cancers in transplant patients at Tampa General, as they have to take medications that suppress their immune system.
“Transplant patients get a lot of skin cancers and sometimes those skin cancers are nasty. I’ve been reading about them for several years in an effort to do a better job taking care of these people,” Dr. Calkins said.
Her reading led her to research from Australia regarding vitamin B3, or niacin. Dr. Calkins said a niacin deficiency causes a disease where patients have rough, scaly skin. She said this is common in China, where residents’ diets are low in niacin.
Calkins told 8 On Your Side that research from the country shows dietary supplements of the vitamin can decrease the risk of cancer in the esophagus.
“So that led me down the road of, ‘OK, what is this niacin doing?’” she said.
Calkins looked into the research conducted in Australia because the country is the “skin cancer center of the world.”
“They looked at patients that had already had skin cancers or had a strong family history that were given a niacinimide, 500 milligrams a day, for 6 months. In that short trial, they saw a 23 percent cell decrease in basil and squamous carcinomas, as well as regression of those benign crusty things on the skin,” she explained.
When the drug was stopped, the effect began to go away in those studied.
Calkins said it’s something someone at risk should continue taking. She said the niacin is responsible for aiding in the repair of DNA damage from the sun.
“If you take 500 milligrams a day, there are pretty much no side effects. And how many things can we say that about in the world?” Calkin said.
Though there is enough data in the medical world for her to recommend it to her patients, Calkins said taking niacin is not a cancer treatment, just a preventative measure. If you have skin cancer, you need to see your doctor to get any lesions taken care of.
“If you’re one of these people that are at risk to get more skin cancer in the future, this is something you can do to try and decrease that risk,” she said.
Sunscreen is, of course, still key for preventing skin cancer. Calkins recommends always wearing SPF-50 when in the Florida sunshine to prevent any problems.