Sun protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and some shade all work very well for protecting the skin from the dangers of the Australian sun, however, some people who spend hours in the direct sun every day might like a little more protection than physical barriers to help combat their risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin A is the natural addition to this repertoire of defences, and has been linked to lowering skin cancer in a large study of more than 125,000 people in America.
Benefits of Vitamin A for lowering skin cancer risk
There are many established benefits of vitamin A including protecting your eyes from age related decline, supporting a health immune system and supporting your bone health. A recent study published in the JAMA Dermatology journal found that there is an inverse association between consuming vitamin A and the risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. What this means it that for people who ate the recommended amount of vitamin A there was a 15% lower chance that they would develop cataneous squamous cell carcinoma.
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer and one of the most common forms of the disease after basal cell carcinoma in Australia. While not as dangerous as melanoma, it has been known to spread to other parts of the body from the skin and pose significant risk.
The best source of vitamin A is from a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables and healthy animal products. Some of the foods that have the highest percentage of vitamin A include: liver from beef, lamb or other sources, cod liver oil, fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, cheeses such as goats cheese, cheddar and camembert.
It is important to note that too much vitamin A can have negative consequences on the body. The recommended amount of vitamin A per day is between 700 and 900 micrograms, exceeding this can cause liver damage, thinning of the bones and osteoporosis.
Thus, natural sources of vitamin A are a much better solution than supplements for getting the amounts of vitamin A that you need. The 2019 study conducted over 25 years showed that people who took vitamin A supplements did not appear to have a lower chance of developing squamous cell skin cancer. Thus, eating the right food and having a balanced diet is the best way to get the vitamin A you need to fight the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin A still cannot replace traditional forms of skin protection
While the news about vitamin A and its impact on reducing the risk of skin cancer is welcome, we should keep in mind that having the right amount of vitamin A in your diet still cannot replace more traditional forms of protecting your skin against the sun. When going outside, particularly on days with a high UV index, it is still important to wear sunscreen, slip on long sleeved, protective clothing and wear a hat that will cover the face, neck and ears.