- Research shows that higher vitamin A levels reduce the risk of skin cancer
- The protection level of vitamin A is above the government's recommendations
- Vitamin A can be safely ingested through diet and supplements
Research on skin cancer and vitamin A.
We all know that spending time outdoors is healthy, but too much exposure to the sun can cause us to develop skin cancer over time. Most commercial sunscreens involve their own risks because they are absorbed by our skin. So we have to turn to natural options to be sure. For this reason, it is good news that new research suggests that consuming vitamin A can provide an excellent form of skin care protection.
The study, conducted at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found that higher vitamin A intake was associated with a lower risk of squamous cell carcinoma. These results are based on a study of approximately 125,000 American men and women with an average age in their early 50s. The subjects answered questions about their typical diet and use of dietary supplements.
After analyzing the data, it became clear that the participants with the highest vitamin A consumption had a 15 percent lower chance of developing squamous cell carcinoma over a period of 26 years. Squamous cell carcinoma is a very common form of cancer. In the United States, approximately one million cases are diagnosed annually. This skin cancer generally occurs in areas of the body that are often exposed to sunlight, and is more common in people with lighter skin and older populations, probably due to long-term sun exposure.
Vitamin A as a skin cancer fighter
What about vitamin A that could offer us some cancer protection? This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and works at the cellular level to keep the skin healthy. The carotenoids in vitamin A destroy the free radicals that damage collagen, reduce the sun's sensitivity to the skin and help to prevent redness and increased pigmentation due to sun exposure. A study conducted at Charite – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany in 2013 showed that carotenoid-rich diets help prevent signs of aging and cell damage in the skin.
Interestingly, the lowest average vitamin A intake in the current study was around 7,000 IU a day, which is not far below the 10,000 IU maximum recommended by the National Institutes of Health. In fact, the study volunteers who benefited the most and had the least risk of squamous cell carcinoma were the ones who consumed more than 21,000 IU of vitamin A daily – well above state guidelines. However, many nutritionists consider up to 25,000 IU absolutely safe for most people, which is strongly supported by research, with the exception of those over 65 and people with liver disease.
The best sources of vitamin A.
A diet rich in various products should ensure that you have a sufficient amount of vitamin A in your system every day. Particularly good sources are sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, peppers, melons, mangoes, eggs, broccoli, black-eyed peas and salmon.
Remember that vegetable sources do not contain actual vitamin A. Instead, they contain beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol). There are a few limitations when it comes to beta carotene.
- When it comes to dietary supplements that contain beta carotene, make sure that it is real beta carotene, not the version synthesized from acetylene gas. The commonly used synthesized version is not only less effective, but can also be harmful in some cases.
- If you are using beta carotene supplements, also make sure that you are using a complete carotenoid complex supplement. Some of the carotenoids normally found with beta-carotene, such as alpha-carotene, are even more effective than beta-carotene. If you use natural, organic, real beta carotene, this is automatically the case. However, if you use the synthetic version, you won't get the full complex.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Because of this, it may accumulate over time and reach unsafe levels. As mentioned above, vitamin A is beneficial for most people in slightly higher concentrations. So, if you don't think you're consuming enough from food sources, taking a daily supplement should be fine. However, be aware that side effects can occur if your vitamin A level gets too high. If you experience nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances or dizziness, stop using the supplements immediately.