Retinol supplementation reduces melanoma risk in women

Just when you thought you knew all about Vitamin d, along comes Vitamin A……

From the Huffington post and many other reputable journals last week – see the actual abstract below




Taking daily vitamin A supplements could protect against deadly melanoma skin cancer, scientists claim.

According to researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, a compound found in vitamin A, (Retinol), is vital for protecting against skin cancer.

Retinol is part of a family of chemical compounds known as retinoids and penetrates the outer layers of the skin and repairs damage to the lower layers, where collagen and elastin are found.

Acid found in Retinol, encourages skin cells to function normally and increases regular cell renewal. It is also widely praised for its anti-ageing properties.

Expert dermatologists analysed the skin cancer risk in 69,635 men and women aged between 50 and 76 who took a daily vitamin A supplement, either through a pill form or as food supplements.

Researchers discovered that those who took the supplements, in particular retinol, were 60% less likely to develop melanoma skin cancer, the deadliest form, than those who took no supplements. Participants who took higher does of more than 1,200mg a day, increased their prevention against the cancer by 74%.

Interestingly, researchers found no link between foods containing vitamin A (like eggs, liver and milk) and a reduced risk of skin cancer, as well as another powerful compound that the body turns into vitamin A (carotenoids).

Carotenoids, commonly found in bright coloured vegetables like carrots and tomatoes, are said to improve the immune system and contain powerful antioxidants.

Researchers discovered that vitamin A retinol supplements had the biggest impact on women.

Dr. Maryam Asgari, a dermatologist from the study, said, as reported on the Daily Mail: “Our data suggests a possible interaction between supplemental retinol use and the anatomic site of melanoma, with sun-exposed sites showing a stronger protective effect than sun-protected sites.”

However, a leading cancer charity has warned people against bulk buying retinol supplements.

Claire Knight, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, told The Huffington Post: “We don’t recommend people start taking retinol supplements based on this study, particularly as high doses can be toxic.

“The result was based on a very small number of people with melanoma, and the authors didn’t account for other important factors that influence the risk of skin cancer, such as the number of moles a person has.

“And crucially, when the authors looked at whether a particular dose was linked to risk, the link between retinol and melanoma disappeared.

“The good news is that you can reduce the risk of skin cancer by enjoying the sun safely – use shade, clothing and at least SPF 15 sunscreen to help protect your skin from sunburn.”



J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Mar 1. doi: 10.1038/jid.2012.21. [Epub ahead of print]

Association of Vitamin A and Carotenoid Intake with Melanoma Risk in a Large Prospective Cohort.


1] Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, California, USA [2] Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Laboratory data suggest that intake of vitamin A and carotenoids may have chemopreventive benefits against melanoma, but epidemiological studies examining the association have yielded conflicting results. We examined whether dietary and supplemental vitamin A and carotenoid intake was associated with melanoma risk among 69,635 men and women who were participants of the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study in western Washington. After an average of 5.84 years of follow-up, 566 incident melanomas were identified. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for risk of melanoma associated with dietary, supplemental, and total vitamin A and carotenoid intake after adjusting for melanoma risk factors. Baseline use of individual retinol supplements was associated with a significant reduction in melanoma risk (HR: 0.60; 95% CI: 0.41-0.89). High-dose (>1,200 μg per day) supplemental retinol was also associated with reduced melanoma risk (HR: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.55-1.00), as compared with non-users. The reduction in melanoma risk was stronger in sun-exposed anatomic sites. There was no association of melanoma risk with dietary or total intake of vitamin A or carotenoids. Retinol supplementation may have a preventative role in melanoma among women.Journal of Investigative Dermatology advance online publication, 1 March 2012; doi:10.1038/jid.2012.21.

  1. #1 by Lester on March 5, 2012 - 9:22 am

    Vit D and Vit A form a heterodimer and this is the active complex. So if Vit D is associated with a better outcome, Vit A likewise must be associated. The other vitamin “sprouted” at the last melanoma congress , photobiology congeress was B3. This is best taken as nicotinamide not nicotinic at a dose of 500mg. All our melanoam patients are on Vit D3 and B3. Why not Vit A – good question you might ask

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