Vitamin C, vitamin E and cancer (review)

L. H. Chen, G. A. Boissonneault, H. P. Glauert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The influences of vitamin C and vitamin E on cancer reported in the literature are reviewed. Several correlational studies and case-control studies sugest that the consumption of vitamin C-containing foods is associated with lower risk of certain cancers, particularly gastric and esophageal cancer. No definite links between dietary vitamin E and human cancer have been demonstrated. Animal and in vitro studies have shown that vitamins C and E can effectively inhibit the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. However, animal studies examining the effects of these two vitamins on other chemically-induced cancers are not conclusive. Vitamin C supplementation has been reported to inhibit skin, nerve, lung and kidney carcinogenesis. Vitamin E has been shown to inhibit skin, liver, oral, ear duct, and forestomach carcinogenesis; and to enhance, to have no effect on, or to inhibit mammary gland or colon carcinogenesis, depending upon the method of administration, the level of dietary selenium or fat, and the species and strain of animals used. Both vitamin C and vitamin E can inhibit mutagenesis and carcinogenesis in vitro. Each of the vitamins has been shown to inhibit tumor cell growth and carcinogen-induced DNA damage. The mechanism of action of the two vitamins against carcinogens is not clearly understood. Several suggested mechanisms of action include modification of the metabolism of polycyclic hydrocarbons, reduction of mutagenic activity and reaction with genotoxic free radicals. It is concluded that the potential usefulness of vitamin C and vitamin E in the prevention and treatment of cancer should not be ignored because under certain experimental conditions these two vitamins exert inhibitory effects on chemical carcinogenesis. More carefully standardized and controlled experiments are required to adequately evaluate this potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-748
Number of pages10
JournalAnticancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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