Does vitamin C treat cancer?

04 October 2009

Question

Is it true that vitamin C helps to cure cancer or perhaps even prevent it? And if so, how’s that possible?

Answer

Kat - No, it isn't. This is something that Linus Pauling put around - the idea that you take massive doses of vitamin C and it can stop you getting cancer or treat cancer. And basically, there's no scientific evidence that this works. However, about a year or so ago, there was a paper that showed that injections of vitamin C may help some treatment. I can't remember all the details, but we certainly blogged about it on the Cancer Research UK Science blog. But it's important to stress that obviously, vitamin Cs are anti-oxidants and taking high doses of anti-oxidants may well interfere with some kinds of cancer treatment in ways that we don't really know and again, it's something that we have blogged about and it's an area that's really quite interesting because people do love to take vitamin pills.Chris - Indeed. There was also a Meta analysis by Goran Bjelakovic who's at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. I remember this coming out last year and they looked at many, many thousands of people who'd all been in little trials on giving anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, selenium, and that kind of thing, vitamin C, and compared that with people's outcomes if they didn't take vitamins. And in fact, in many cases, they found that some chronic vitamin treatments actually resulted in people having a higher mortality rate and morbidity rate than people who didn't take any of these supplements. A modest increase in risk, but at the same time, vitamin A and vitamin E did increase the risks. So, the chances are, yes, it's based on sound physiological principles, trying to take anti-oxidant but the outcomes don't necessarily fit the facts at the moment. So, needs more work I guess is the bottom line.

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