Study: Can Vitamin A Prevent Skin Cancer?

An increased intake of vitamin A has been linked with a decreased risk of developing cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC), according to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology.

In this prospective cohort study, researchers evaluated vitamin A intake and carotenoids and CSCC risk in a total of 3,978 SCC cases comprising 75,170 women (mean age, 54) in the Nurses’ Health Study, which was conducted between 1984-2012, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which took place between 1986-2012. The key outcome in this study was defined as incidence of CSCC, which was confirmed by pathology reports. The researchers used cox proportional hazards regression models to assess group-specific hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% Cis. Subsequently, they analyzed pooled HRs of cohort-specific results. The researchers performed data analysis was performed from June 21, 2017, to December 4, 2018.

According to the study results, a higher total vitamin A was correlated with a reduction in CSCC risk; with the pooled multivariate HRs for the increasing quintiles of vitamin A intake were 0.97 (95% CI, 0.87 to 1.07) for quintile 2, 0.97 (95% CI, 0.80-1.17) for quintile 3, 0.93 (95% CI, 0.84-1.03) for quintile 4, and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.75-0.93) for quintile 5 (P < .001 for trend), respectively. Moreover, augmented intakes of retinol and some carotenoids were also linked with a reduction in SCC risk; the pooled HRs for the highest quintiles of intake compared with the lowest quintiles were 0.88 (95% CI, 0.79 to 0.97; P = .001 for trend) for total retinol, 0.86 (95% CI, 0.76 to 0.96; P = .001 for trend) for beta cryptoxanthin, 0.87 (95% CI, 0.78 to 0.96; P < .001 for trend) for lycopene, and 0.89 (95% CI, 0.81 to 0.99; P = .02 for trend) for lutein and zeaxanthin. The researchers noted that the results of the study were generally consistent by gender and other SCC risk factors.

Further Studies Are Needed

“Our study provides another reason to eat lots of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet,” Eunyoung Cho, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University in a press release. “Skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, is hard to prevent, but this study suggests that eating a healthy diet rich in vitamin A may be a way to reduce your risk, in addition to wearing sunscreen and reducing sun exposure.”

Cho now aims to conduct a clinical trial to examine the efficacy of using vitamin A supplements to prevent CSCC and added that “if a clinical trial cannot be done, then a large-scale prospective study like this is the best alternative for studying diet.”