By Liam Davenport
Taking vitamin A supplements reduces the risk for developing a deadly form of skin cancer called melanoma, say US researchers.
The team found that the effect occurred particularly in women and was most noticeable in areas of the skin exposed to the sun.
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is the sixth most common form of cancer in the USA, and there is evidence that vitamin A, which is found in foods such as eggs, milk, and liver, may offer some protection against the disease.
To test the theory, Maryam Asgari, from Kaiser Permanente Northern California, in Oakland, and colleagues carried out a study of almost 70,000 men and women to find out whether vitamin A and related compounds taken as part of a person's diet or as supplements influence melanoma risk.
After following the participants for almost 6 years, the team found that there were 566 new cases of melanoma. They discovered that, after taking into account risk factors for melanoma, people who took vitamin A supplements had a 40% reduced risk for developing the disease. Vitamin A from people's diets had no effect on melanoma risk.
Interestingly, when women and men were looked at separately, women who took vitamin A supplements had a 73% reduction in melanoma risk, while men who took supplements had no reduction in risk for the disease.
The impact of vitamin A supplements was particularly noticeable in areas of skin exposed to the sun, with the risk of melanoma reduced by 56% on the limbs and by 51% on the head and neck, compared with only 5% on the chest and abdomen.
The team concludes: "Our findings suggest that vitamin A supplementation may hold promise as a chemo-preventive agent for melanoma."
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