How can Vitamin C help prevent cancer?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent many diseases including cancer. Our bodies are exposed to so much pollution in the air, and a ton of chemicals in our foods. Pollution, chemicals, and UV light produce free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are very “reactive” meaning they cause a lot of damage to our DNA. DNA damage = disease, including cancer.
Vitamin C removes free radicals from our bodies, this removal prevents DNA damage and thus prevents disease.
Vitamin C and Cancer Therapy
Because Vitamin C is such a powerful antioxidant, health care professionals have been studying its benefit in both preventative medicine and treatment therapy. The use of intravenous vitamin C for the use of cancer therapy was first developed in the 1970’s by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling . Pauling and Cameron were part of uncontrolled trial studies, his work discovered longer survival times among cancer patients treated with vitamin C, taken orally or intravenously compared to control patients that were not given Vitamin C .
“Longer survival times among cancer patients treated with vitamin C, taken orally or intravenously…”
A variety of research literature show that cancer patients develop vitamin C deficiency due to: 
- reduced oral intake
- disease processes
- radiation and chemotherapy
“Studies have reported reduced inflammation markers and improvement in symptoms, leading to a better quality a life in cancer patients when given vitamin C intravenously or orally.”
Why is inflammation important when talking about cancer?
There has been a lot of data over the years that shows inflammation is an important part of tumor progression. A lot of cancers emerge from infection, chronic irritation, and inflammation . The environment of the tumor is largely affected by inflammatory cells. When referring to cancer, inflammation causes:
- enabling of proliferation (proliferation means the cells continue to multiply, which makes the tumor larger)
- survival (survival of tumor cells)
- migration (in the world of cancer- migration of cancer cells means it is metastasizing aka. spreading-not good)
In order to further understand what exactly inflammation does to the physiology of the body – lets discuss wound healing. When you get a cut in your skin, there are many signals that begin going off in your body in order to heal the cut. The body sends white blood cells from the blood stream to the cut in order to fight any possible infection, as well as fibroblasts (which make extracellular matrix and collagen) this is essential to put “your wound” back together, and platelets (and other fibrin molecules) used to plug the wound and stop you from bleeding to death – yikes!
This process is very similar but much less organized in the process of tumor progression. The cells in a tumor multiply uncontrollably, and act very different from normal cells. This is due to the DNA damage, cancer cells are essentially uncontrollable. They build an environment similar to the environment of wound healing although nothing is regulated. Tumors can begin to pull in blood vessels which help them gain oxygen and spread throughout the body.
Vitamin C and Inflammation
It is hypothesized that many cancers arise from infections and inflammation due to host response. There is growing evidence that many cancers are initiated by infections. Chronic infections induce inflammation due to the generation of reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) that come from our bodies normal cells; white blood cells. Our white blood cells (our cells that fight infection) produce ROS naturally in order to fight infection. As we have previously discussed ROS increase leads to an increase in DNA damage and DNA damage leads to an increase in cancer and disease.
And why is vitamin C so important to help with the progression of inflammation, disease, and cancer?
Its because Vitamin C helps get rid of these reactive oxygen species. Vitamin C helps eliminate the ROS that are naturally produced by our white blood cells in order to fight infection. See this is the funny thing about our bodies- they work for the most part, but sometimes the function that helps “save” us, creates problems down the road. Vitamin C helps fight these “down the road” problems.
Inflammation, Infections, and Cancer
We can see the association between inflammation and cancer quite clearly when studying the effects inflammatory bowel disease, chronic ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease has on the development of colon cancer .
We can also see the association of inflammation and cancer between Hepatitis C infection and the predisposition to liver cancer . As well as an increase risk for bladder and colon cancer which is associated with schistosomiasis (a parasitic flat worm – yuck) infection .
Chronic Helicobacter pylori infection is the leading cause of stomach cancer . Helicobacter pylori is the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers and thus heart burn (also inflammation).
There are also a number of virus that can directly transform cells through the addition of their genetic material into the genetic material of the host (you).
So the main point to take from this, is that you do not want anything altering your DNA. Not from ROS, not from viral infections, not from chronic inflammation. Not from ANYTHING, do we ever want our DNA altered.
A good way to keep those ROS out of our bodies and off our DNA is to take an antioxidant powerful enough to get rid of them. And this is when vitamin C comes into play, they get rid of the ROS in our bodies. As they get rid of the ROS the vitamin C is consumed, and because we cannot synthesize our own Vitamin C, we need it in our bodies everyday. Either through foods, supplements, or both!
Inflammation and Cancer continued…Another mounting pile of evidence associated with inflammation and cancer comes from the progression of cancer among chronic users of aspirin and NSAIDs (ibuprofen etc.). There is a lot of data that indicated the use of these drugs reduced colon cancer by 40-50%  and may be preventative for lung, esophagus, and stomach cancer .
But, Please do not go around taking large amounts of either aspirin or NSAIDs, NSAIDs can be really damaging to stomach lining, and so you always want to speak to your doctor before starting any long term medication plan.
Vitamin C levels in Cancer Patients
Cancer patients face a double edge sword when dealing the Vitamin C depletion. They tend to experience increased oxidative stress and inflammation while their disease progresses. This oxidative stress and inflammation stress leads to more utilization of vitamin C.
Again- Oxidative stress is the presence of free radicals. The free radicals cause oxidative stress, and vitamin C gets rid of these free radicals. When an antioxidants like vitamin C binds to free radicals, they become consumed. This is why the body needs a constant restore of antioxidants.
In cancer patients vitamin C used intravenously has been shown to lower inflammation .
Although, Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the symptoms cancer patients experience, it is not to be used alone for cancer treatment. Vitamin C therapy is an added therapy that helps with the effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
A study done by Takahashi et al. researched the quality of life in 60 newly diagnosed high stage cancer patients. This includes patients that are undergoing chemotherapy, the study showed with the use of intravenous vitamin C, there was a significant decrease in: 
And an increase in the following:
- physical function
- emotional function
- social function
- cognitive function
All symptoms besides cognitive function was improved in two weeks after the initial Intravenous treatment with vitamin C. Cognitive function was improved 4 weeks after initial IVC. 
“There have been studies that show vitamin C targets many of the mechanisms that cancer cell utilize for their survival and growth.”
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent the formation of many diseases, and more importantly cancer.
Our DNA is so precious and needs to be protected at all costs when it comes to reactive oxygen species trying to alter it. This protection comes from the addition of Vitamin C in our diets or through supplementation.
Vitamin C also helps our immune systems fight of bacterium and viruses which could also aid in the protection of cancer, through the elimination of ROS production and inflammation caused by infection.
The best way to live is a life full of health and wellness. We need to continue to take care of our bodies through diet and exercise. This helps our immune systems function optimally, it keeps inflammation at bay, and it reduces the amount of reactive oxygen species in our bodies. Pollution, chemicals, and UV radiation are the top culprits at ROS production. Protect yourself from these 3 at all costs!
Frequently Asked Questions
I take a vitamin C supplement everyday, from Optimunity. But I first discussed taking vitamin C supplements with my doctor. Vitamin C is good for so many things in the body. I think it’s important for everyone to get the right amount of vitamin C in their diets and through supplementation.
Vitamin C is thought to help a great deal with cancer therapies, it cannot be used for a sole treatment purposes but this is definitely a good question to ask your doctor. And also remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle while battling your disease.
The reason why aspirin helps with heart attacks is because it is a blood thinner. And yes there is evidence that aspirin and NSAIDs help protect against cancer formation, but you want to discuss taking an aspirin every day with your doctor. If you are young and healthy, you don’t necessarily want to thin your blood. Or have the aspirin interact with any other medications.
Make sure you go to your doctor and find out if your wounds are healing slowly because of some underlying health condition, if you are cleared to take vitamin C supplements, then yes, supplementation is always a good idea to help with wound healing!