A daily dose of vitamin A could help prevent against skin cancer, according to a study carried out by U.S researchers.
Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research discovered that taking food supplements containing vitamin A can make people less likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
However, there is no such link between dietary intake of vitamin A, found in carrots, eggs and milk, and reduced risk of skin cancer.
Dermatologist Dr Maryam Asgari and colleagues analysed the disease risk in 69,635 men and women aged between 50 and 76, who consumed vitamin A through supplements or in their diet.
Their findings, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, show that participants who took vitamin A supplements were 60 per cent less likely to develop skin cancer, rising to 74 per cent among participants on the highest doses of more than 1,200 mg a day.
The strongest protective effects were found in women and sun exposed sites.
The researchers have suggested that retinol, a key component of vitamin A, is what protects against the disease. Retinol begins to a class of compounds called retinoids, which have been shown to stop cells dividing and spreading.
Dr Asgari, of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland, said: 'Our findings suggest vitamin A supplementation may hold promise as a chemopreventive agent for melanoma.'
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among white populations. Whilst most forms of the disease are easy to treat, melanoma is difficult to cure unless detected early. About 1,800 people die from melanoma annually in the UK.
However, experts say they are not fully convinced by the findings. Dr Claire Knight, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “We don't recommend people start taking retinol supplements based on this study, particularly as high doses can be toxic.”
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