A recent study in “JAMA Dermatology” shows that vitamin A rich diet can inhibit skin cancer. The research team has found an inverse link between vitamin A and skin cancer. It indicates that high levels of vitamin A can protect a person from skin cancer.
Vitamin A is necessary for growth and maturation of skin cells
Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. A few sources of vitamin A are meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, carrots, and sweet potato.
Many fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids. These are yellow, orange, and red pigments in plants. And a body can convert them into vitamin A. Vitamin A has a role in cell growth and maturation. Also, it acts as an antioxidant.
The study shows that people with a higher intake of vitamin A are at a lower risk of having skin cancer. There is a 17% reduction in the chance of skin cancer in these people.
The scientists have also found that vitamin A is important for the growth and maturation of the skin cells. In people having fair skin, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer.
The research team has assessed the data of two cohort studies. One is the Nurses’ Health Study (1984 – 2012) and includes 121,700 U.S. women.
Also read- Can Your Sunscreen Cause Skin Cancer?
While the other, Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 – 2012), involves 51,529 U.S. men. In both, the team has looked at the link between skin cancer and diet.
In these studies, some people (123,000) were white, with no history of cancer. These people had filled the dietary reports for multiple times. Also, they were at high risk of having skin cancer.
Among these people, follow up for 24 or 26 years had verified 3,978 cases of skin cancer. The team had also asked about hair color, the number of severe sunburns, and the family history of skin cancer in the members of both studies.
However, the team hadn’t collected the data about one of the major risk factors of skin cancer, which is the avoidance of sun at mid-day. Later, the team classified the members into five groups.
Protective effect of vitamin A against skin cancer
The results of the study found that the group with the highest daily intake of Vit A had 17% fewer chances of skin cancer than the group having the lowest daily intake of Vit A. The group with the highest intake, on average, ate an amount of Vit A equals to two carrots (large) or one baked sweet potato (medium) per day.
While the group with the lowest intake ate one carrot (small) or 1/3 cup of sweet potato fries. Also, vitamin A in the diet of the group with the lowest intake was still more than its RDA.
Further study showed that the majority of vitamin A in the diet was from fruits and vegetables, instead of animal sources or supplements. Where too much Vit A from latter ones may cause nausea, liver toxicity, and increased risk of birth defects, hip fracture, and osteoporosis.
These side effects are minimum in the case of high levels of vitamin A from plant sources. Overall, the results of the study have shown that Vitamin A rich diet may inhibit skin cancer.
As this study is observational, not a clinical trial, one cannot verify cause and effect. And another factor may have led to this result. For instance, people with more intake of Vit A may also have a habit to drink less alcohol.