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Study: Vitamin A can lower skin cancer risks

Doses of vitamin A may be associated with a lower risk of a common skin cancer, according to JAMA Dermatology. A study of about 125,000 Americans showed that people with the highest intake of vitamin A lowered their risk of squamous cell skin cancer by around 15%.

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Most of the vitamin A came from foods, proving that a healthy diet can lower the risk of skin cancer, in addition to offering many other health benefits.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year in the United States, bringing numbers well into epidemic proportions.

Vitamin A is an important vitamin for healthy vision, immune system function and cell growth. It works synergistically with a number of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, K2, zinc and magnesium.

Vitamin A is actually several different but related nutrients that can be divided up into two main categories:

  • Retinoids (aka retinol), the bioavailable forms of vitamin A found in animal foods like liver and eggs. 
  • Carotenoids, previtamin A found in plant foods.

When you get carotenoids (pre-vitamin A) from plant sources, your body must convert the carotenoids into bioavailable retinol, which is not a problem if you are in good health. However, poor health conditions or genetics can inhibit your body's ability to absorb carotenoids and convert them into Vitamin A.

There are a number of nutrients in addition to Vitamin A that you can use to support and help protect healthy skin. Astaxanthin, lycopene, beta carotene, vitamins D, E and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) have all been shown to help protect your skin against sun damage. Lycopene also acts as an internal sunscreen, although it’s not nearly as protective as astaxanthin. Vitamin E absorbs energy from UV light, thus playing an important role in photoprotection, and preventing UV-induced free radical damage to skin.

Sun damage is to be avoided at all costs, but it’s also important to realize that sunlight is not the skin demon that you may think it is. For every death caused by diseases related to excessive sun exposure such as melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — there are 328 deaths caused by diseases of sunlight deprivation.

A sensible and healthy exposure to sunlight can lower your risk for many conditions, including Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and several types of cancer, including melanoma.

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