Safety and efficacy of dose-intensive oral vitamin A in subjects with sun-damaged skin

Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Mar 15;10(6):1875-80. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-03-0188.


Purpose: Previously, we reported the results of a Phase III, placebo-controlled trial in 2297 randomized participants with moderately severe actinic keratoses wherein 25000 IU/day vitamin A caused a 32% risk reduction in squamous cell skin cancers. We hypothesized that dose escalation of vitamin A to 50000 or 75000 IU/day would be both safe and more efficacious in skin cancer chemoprevention.

Experimental design: One hundred and twenty-nine participants with severely sun-damaged skin on their lateral forearms were randomized to receive placebo or 25000, 50000, or 75000 IU/day vitamin A for 12 months. The primary study end points were the clinical and laboratory safety of vitamin A, and the secondary end points included quantitative, karyometric image analysis and assessment of retinoid and rexinoid receptors in sun-damaged skin.

Results: There were no significant differences in expected clinical and laboratory toxicities between the groups of participants randomized to placebo, 25000 IU/day, 50000 IU/day, and 75000 IU/day. Karyometric features were computed from the basal cell layer of skin biopsies, and a total of 22600 nuclei from 113 participants were examined, showing statistically significant, dose-response effects for vitamin A at the 25000 and 50000 IU/day doses. These karyometric changes correlated with increases in retinoic acid receptor alpha, retinoic acid receptor beta, and retinoid X receptor alpha at the 50000 IU/day vitamin A dose.

Conclusions: The vitamin A doses of 50000 and 75000 IU/day for 1 year proved safe and equally more efficacious than the 25000 IU/day dose and can be recommended for future skin cancer chemoprevention studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Biopsy
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratosis / drug therapy
  • Keratosis / etiology
  • Keratosis / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin A / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin A / therapeutic use*


  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Vitamin A