UNTIL two years ago, doctors were finding between 12 and 15 skin cancers on Neil Davidson's body annually.
Now they only cut out about four each year.
It might not sound pleasant to the average person, but Neil is grateful for the vitamin which he said had almost halted surgeries which he felt had become a "never-ending process".
In 2013 a doctor told him about a promising trial with nicotinamide, an oral vitamin B3 derivative.
University of Sydney researchers found it significantly lowered the risk of common, non-melanoma skin cancer in people who had at least two non-melanoma skin cancers in the past five years.
Medical director Dr Ian Katz of SunDoctors Skin Cancer Clinics, which has clinics in Gympie, Booval, Caboolture, Nambour and Noosaville, said the vitamin was easily available over the counter.
Insolar is one product specially formulated with nicotinamide.
Two years after Neil first began taking nicotinamide, the avid gardener is enjoying playing lawn bowls three times a week and fishing.
His susceptibility to skin cancers and other illnesses had risen when his body's immune system was lowered by the immunosuppressants he was taking after he had a heart transplant.
The sun had already taken its toll on the 70-year-old Coffs Harbour man's skin while he was growing up on Manly's beaches, particularly as a member of the local surf club.
Now the former real estate agent does not forget to slip, slop, slap.
"It's a bit of an inconvenience, but it's better than being dead," Neil said.
Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with about 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancer cases diagnosed annually.
This Skin Cancer Action Week, Dr Katz is warning people to place their priority on covering up, rather than sunscreen.
His first tip is to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and to cover up whenever in the sun.
Dr Katz said most people should be using much more sunscreen, regardless of the SPF level, putting it on 20 minutes before being in the sun and reapplying every three to four hours.
At least one teaspoon of sunscreen should be used on each limb, front and back of the body and half a teaspoon for the face, neck and ears.
"You can get burnt in five or seven minutes in the Australian sun if you've got sensitive skin," Dr Katz said.
He also advises people to keep any eye on any changes to spots on their skin, including spots, moles or freckles that bleed or do not heal.
Call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for more information and support.
SKIN CANCER STATS
- Australia has among the highest rate of skin cancer in the world
- About two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70
- Allowing for population size and age, NSW has the third highest incidence rate of cancer
- Sunburn causes 95% of melanomas, the most deadly form of skin cancer
Source: Cancer Council and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Skin cancers do not all look the same. Watch out for spots, moles or freckles that:
- are different from other spots on the skin
- have changed in size, shape or colour
- do not heal