Non-melanoma skin cancers are by far the most common type of cancer, and if you have already had prior skin cancer, your risk of developing additional skin cancers is 1000% greater than for those who have never had skin cancer.
Whether you have had skin cancer before or not, make sure you:
- See a board-certified dermatologist for whole body skin checks, every 6-12 months
- Wear a full spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen and re-apply often (learn more about the best sunscreens, here)
- Check your entire body for new or changing skin lesions, monthly (learn how to do this, here)
- Read about other skin cancer prevention suggestions, here
- If you have had a prior melanoma, ask your dermatologist about a prognostic test called DecisionDX Melanoma, to further clarify your risk of melanoma recurrence (see chart below)
Dietary Supplements That May Reduce Skin Cancer Risks:
If you are at high-risk of developing skin cancer, you might consider implementing a cancer risk reduction strategy that includes dietary anticancer phytonutrients (in whole foods or plant extracts) and supplemental vitamin B3:
Broccoli sprout extract: 25% reduction in skin cancers; mouse study (reference). Human dose unknown.
Coffee (the studies report caffeinated): 6 or more cups per day reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by 30% (reference) and melanoma skin cancers by 25%; human study (reference)
Curcumin: Reduces the growth rate of non-melanoma skin cancers; mouse study (reference). Reduces the development of non-melanoma skin cancers; mouse study (reference). Human dose unknown.
Green tea: 5–6 cups (1 cup=150 mL) of green tea (1 gram green tea leaves/150 mL) per day reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers by 35%; mouse study (reference) EGCG and other green tea “catechins” are considered the main active anticancer phytonutrients in green tea. These can be substituted for drinking green tea, but the dose for reducing the risk of skin cancer is not known.
Grape seed extract: 95% reduction in non-melanoma skin cancers; mouse study (reference).Grape seed is available as a dietary supplement in capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Look for products that are standardized to 40 to 80% proanthocyanidins or an OPC content of not less than 95%. Human dose unknown.
Nicotinamide (vitamin B3): 500 mg twice per day reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers by 23%; human study (reference)
Review articles supporting the use of phytonutrients for skin cancer prevention:
- New Enlightenment of Skin Cancer Chemoprevention through Phytochemicals: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies and the Underlying Mechanisms
- Review of natural compounds for potential skin cancer treatment
Synthetic antioxidant vitamin supplements (i.e. vitamin E, C, beta-carotene) may increase the risk of skin cancer. These are not the same as those naturally found in whole plants or plant extracts. Synthetic antioxidants behave differently, acting as either pro-oxidants (capable of causing DNA damage to normal cellular DNA) or as potent antioxidants (which may impair your body’s ability to fight cancer by scavenging the cancer-killing free radicals normally released by your immune cells.)
If you want to take synthetic antioxidant vitamin supplements, first get your levels of micronutrients tested to see if you are actually deficient. Here are my two favorite micronutrient tests:
Studies have reported a possible association linking synthetic antioxidants with an increased risk of skin cancer (reference) and melanoma metastases (reference).
If you are currently taking synthetic antioxidant supplements, I suggest you stop taking them and get your micronutrients levels tested. The good news is that it appears that the increased risk of developing skin cancer declines after discontinuation of these supplements (reference.)
Read about potential side effects and interactions:
- Broccoli sprout extract (none)
- Green tea
- Grape seed extract
- Vitamin B3
- The use of specific anticancer phytonutrients and vitamin B3 is a promising complementary approach that may further reduce your risk of developing skin cancer when combined with the usual skin cancer prevention guidelines.
- Plant-based anticancer prevention strategies for skin and other cancers are supported by clinical and preclinical studies.
- Until randomized controlled trials are done to prove that this complementary approach is efficacious, this remains an area of controversy (my usual caveat.)
**DISCLAIMER: I do not endorse or receive any commissions from any of the supplement manufacturers, above.