We know that vitamin A is important for our bodies’ growth and development, in particular for eye, reproductive, and skin health. Now new research shows that vitamin A consumption could decrease the risk of skin cancer. The study comes from a collaboration of institutions including the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Brown School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Inje University, in Seoul, South Korea. It was published recently in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The study looked particularly at the effect that vitamin A has on cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, one of the most common forms of skin cancer. Following the nonprofit organization Skin Cancer Foundation, "Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer;” the foundation reports that doctors diagnose over 1 million new cases annually in the US.
The team of researchers, led by first author Dr. Jongwoo Kim, looked at a compilation of data from 75,170 women (with a mean age of 50.4 years) and 48,400 men (with a mean age of 54.3 years). Over a follow-up of 26 years, the researchers noted 3,978 skin cancer cases between the two groups. Combining this information with data concerning the participants’ vitamin A consumption, the team determined who take in more vitamin A seemed to have a lower risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
"In this large prospective study of U.S. women and men, we found that higher intake of total vitamin A, retinol, and several individual carotenoids, including beta cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein and zeaxanthin was associated with lower risk of [squamous cell carcinoma]," the authors explain in the paper.
They continue, "We found an inverse association between intake of vitamin A and carotenoids and risk of cutaneous [squamous cell carcinoma], supporting the protective role of vitamin A against [squamous cell carcinoma] development. Our data further support the contention that supplemental and dietary vitamin A may be beneficial in preventing [squamous cell carcinoma]."