The role of vitamin C supplements for breast cancer patients has been debated in the news since the 1970’s when the first studies using high dose vitamin C showed the possible benefits. Vitamin C is a nutrient that we get from food or dietary supplements and is considered an antioxidant, known to help prevent oxidative stress. When taken by intravenous infusion, vitamin C can reach higher levels in the blood than when taken by mouth. Studies suggest these higher levels of vitamin C may cause the death of cancer cells. Over the years, there have been many studies that looked at using vitamin C as a cancer treatment and more recently, as a complement to conventional therapy.
A new study published this month in the European Journal of Cancer reviewed 10 studies where vitamin C was studied in women after a breast cancer diagnosis. The studies included 17,696 cases of breast cancer. Some of the outcomes reported were as follows:
- Taking vitamin C supplements after a breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a 19 percent decreased risk of death compared to not taking vitamin C. Vitamin C supplements decreased the risk of breast cancer-specific death by 15 percent compared to not taking vitamin C.
- Compared to women with low amounts of vitamin C in their diet, patients who ate high amounts of vitamin C had a 23 percent decreased risk of breast cancer-specific death.
- When breast cancer patients increased the amount of vitamin C in their diet by 100 mg a day, their risk of death went down 27 percent compared to before they increased their intake. The risk of breast cancer-specific death went down by 22 percent in the women who increased vitamin C in their diet by 100 mg per day compared to no increase in vitamin C consumption.
In summary, the study suggests that vitamin C supplement intake does not have a negative impact on breast cancer survival and may be associated with a reduced risk of death. This is wonderful news and achievable for many patients. While many patients often under report the supplements and vitamins they take, this study urges patients to check with your doctor first.
So my question ladies and gentlemen: How many of you are taking vitamin C orally or intravenously? What has been your experience?
By Marie Borsellino RN BSN OCN CBPN-C
Harris, H.R.,Orsinia, N.,Wolk, A.(2014). Vitamin C and survival among women with breast cancer: A Meta-analysis. European Journal of Cancer. Vol. 50, (7), pp.1223–1231.
National Cancer Institute (2013) Questions and answers about high-dose vitamin C. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/highdosevitaminc/patient/page2