Vitamin C and Cancer Cells – Do High Doses Kill Tumors?

As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C boosts the immune system to protect the cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. It also helps manage high blood pressure, reduces blood uric acid levels, and prevents iron deficiency. 

Because there are side effects of ingesting too much Vitamin C, it’s important not to use supplements in excess or add too much of the vitamin to your diet. There have been known harmful side effects of eating too much Vitamin C, including digestive issues. The recommended daily amount for adults is 65 to 90 milligrams. 

The History of Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Treatment 

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, scurvy was a leading cause of death among sailors on long voyages. A naval physician discovered that consuming oranges and lemons could prevent the disease. It wasn’t until two centuries later that scientists identified that scurvy is a state of Vitamin C deficiency and that citrus fruits are rich sources of this vitamin. Therefore, a diet high in Vitamin C can ward off scurvy while also protecting against other diseases.   

The powerful benefits of Vitamin C have led researchers to consider it as an alternative cancer treatment. Studies on using high doses of Vitamin C began in the 1970s. Over the decades, there has been some controversy regarding this. Two major studies conducted in the 1970s yielded different results. However, those discrepancies were blamed on the different median times of the study, along with the various methods of administration. 

Older trials mostly consisted of randomized testing using Vitamin C in pill form. Later, Vitamin C as a potential cancer treatment gained more traction when the vitamin was given intravenously. With this method, the dose bypasses normal gut metabolism and excretion pathways. The result is higher concentrations of Vitamin C in the blood and an increased ability to attack cancer cells. 

In more recent years, cancer researchers have discovered how Vitamin C breaks down to generate hydrogen peroxide, which can cause tissue and DNA damage. However, normal, healthy cells can remove hydrogen peroxide before it causes any harm. On the other hand, tumor cells have low levels of catalase enzyme activity, making them less able to remove hydrogen peroxide and are, therefore, more susceptible to death when exposed to high doses of Vitamin C. 

Controlled clinical trials on how high doses of Vitamin C can kill tumors and be used as a cancer treatment continue. Currently, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use as a treatment. If you want to learn more about cancer screening and treatment, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology.  

At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.