Vitamin C has been reported to be useful in the treatment and prevention of cancer. Inconsistent effects from growth stimulation to induction of apoptosis of malignant tumor cells, however, have been reported. Melanoma is an increasingly common and potentially lethal malignancy. It was reported that melanoma cells were more susceptible to ascorbate toxicity than any other tumor cells. The mechanisms accounting for ascorbate-induced apoptosis in human melanoma cells, however, have remained unclear. This study was undertaken to investigate the effect of sodium ascorbate on cytotoxicity and apoptosis in human malignant melanoma A375.S2 cells. A375.S2 cells were incubated with a certain range of concentrations of sodium ascorbate for various time periods. In order to examine the effects of sodium ascorbate on cell proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis and necrosis, we performed 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride assays and flow cytometry analysis. Polymerase chain reaction was used to examine the mRNA levels of p53, p21, p27, cyclin A, cyclin E, CDK2 and CDK4, which are associated with cell cycle S-phase arrest and apoptosis. Flow cytometric analysis showed that sodium ascorbate significantly induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in the A375.S2 cell line in a dose-dependent manner. The increased expressions of p53 and p21, and the decreased expressions of cyclin A, cyclin E, CDK2 and CDK4, indicated the cell cycle arrest at G1/S phase after the cells had been treated with sodium ascorbate. Induction of apoptosis involved an increase in the levels of p53, p21 and cellular Ca, and a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential and activation of caspase 3 before culminating in apoptosis in sodium ascorbate-treated A375.S2 cells.