Vitamin C and cancer prevention: the epidemiologic evidence

Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Jan;53(1 Suppl):270S-282S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/53.1.270S.


Epidemiologic evidence of a protective effect of vitamin C for non-hormone-dependent cancers is strong. Of the 46 such studies in which a dietary vitamin C index was calculated, 33 found statistically significant protection, with high intake conferring approximately a twofold protective effect compared with low intake. Of 29 additional studies that assessed fruit intake, 21 found significant protection. For cancers of the esophagus, larynx, oral cavity, and pancreas, evidence for a protective effect of vitamin C or some component in fruit is strong and consistent. For cancers of the stomach, rectum, breast, and cervix there is also strong evidence. Several recent lung cancer studies found significant protective effects of vitamin C or of foods that are better sources of vitamin C than of beta-carotene. It is likely that ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and other factors in fruits and vegetables act jointly. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables in general should be encouraged.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Ascorbic Acid