Can Vitamin C Help Prevent Colon Cancer?

The benefits of vitamin C are far from secret. You don’t even need to be a doctor to know the deal! Many of us take it to shorten colds, boost the immune system, and maintain overall health. This is even more important around flu season when everyone around us has the sniffles. But what about diseases like colon cancer, the second leading cancer killer in the United States? According to science, it might just lend a hand.

Unlike breast or lung cancer, colon cancer doesn’t get a ton of attention. Yet, about 1 in 21 men and 1 in 23 women develop this disease. The risk also increases once you reach the age of 50. That’s where vitamin C, one of nature’s most powerful healing nutrients, can make a difference. This antioxidant has the ability to act on the processes needed for cancer to develop.1


Plus, many people don’t even get enough. After learning about the benefits of vitamin C for colon cancer, you’ll want to make it the highlight of your diet.23

What Is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer affects the colon and rectum, two major parts of the large intestine. Risk factors include having ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, or a family history of the disease. Do you eat a high-fat diet or smoke? The risk goes up.4


Colorectal polyps also increase the chances. However, if they’re found early enough, they can be removed before they turn cancerous. That’s why regular colonoscopies are so important.5 Here’s how vitamin C targets colon cancer.

1. Fights Oxidative Stress

Unsurprisingly, human colon tumors have high levels of oxidative stress. It’s all thanks to reactive oxygen species that “turn on” harmful enzymes and pathways. In turn, cancer cells develop, fueling the growth of those dreaded tumors.6


But, vitamin C has your back. As an antioxidant, this nutrient has the ability to hunt and kill reactive oxygen species. This protects normal cells from the dangerous effects of oxidative stress, making it hard for cancer to thrive.7

2. Controls Gene Mutations

More than 50% of colon cancers are caused by one of two gene mutations: KRAS or BRAF. But according to the journal Science, high doses of vitamin C selectively kills those mutations. This means it can literally find the offending genes and destroy them without harming normal cells. Researchers think it works by disrupting enzymes and pathways.8


3. Reduces Inflammation

Like oxidative stress, inflammation contributes to cancer. In fact, high levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, is associated with colorectal tumors. But since the antioxidant properties of vitamin C also mediate inflammation, you’ll be able to manage those high levels.9 10

4. Lowers pH

Even pH affects cancer development. In a 2017 study in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, researchers found that vitamin C maintains low intracellular pH in intestinal cells. However, cancer cells need a high pH to grow and spread. With the low pH induced by vitamin C, tumor formation will slow down or stop completely.11


5. Enhances Immune System

Cancer prevention doesn’t stop at attacking cancer. The body’s first line of defense, your immune system, needs to be strong. Can vitamin C help? You bet. Vitamin C works by modulating the immune response. By regulating genes, white blood cells will work harder and better than ever before. The function of natural killer cells will also improve.12

A lot of research is needed before high-dose vitamin C becomes a mainstream treatment for colon cancer. Until then, never underestimate the power of vitamin C-rich foods! Additionally, after turning 50, get a colonoscopy every 10 years.13 You might need more frequent screenings if you have a family history of colon cancer.