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Vitamin C fights lung cancer

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA. It is now almost 30 years since Drs. Pauling and Cameron published their ground-breaking studies concerning the benefits of vitamin C supplementation in advanced cancer. Their findings were originally dismissed by the medical community, but new evidence supporting their conclusion continues to surface. For example, lung cancer patients have been found to have lower blood plasma concentrations of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and also consume less vitamin C in their diet than do healthy individuals.

Researchers at the University of Alabama now report that the vitamin C concentration in cancerous lung tissue is much higher than in adjacent healthy tissue. They believe the body tries to concentrate vitamin C in the diseased tissue because it helps to fight the cancer. The study involved 22 patients who had developed cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) of the lung or larynx. Most of the patients had been heavy smokers prior to surgery. The researchers measured the concentration of ascorbic acid in the cancerous and healthy issue and found a marked difference. The median concentration in cancerous tissue was 483 nanograms/mg of protein versus only 72 nanograms/mg of protein in healthy tissue. The researchers also measured the degree of methylation of DNA in diseased and healthy tissues. Again, they found a very significant difference. The radiolabeled methyl incorporation in cancerous tissue was 31,416 counts per minute per microgram DNA versus only 11,444 counts per minute per microgram DNA in healthy tissue. A high degree of DNA methylation is believed to be important in fighting cancer. The researchers conclude that the body's natural defense mechanism concentrates vitamin C in cancerous lung tissue in order to increase DNA methylation and thereby fight the cancer. They point out that other research has shown that breast cancer tumors also tend to have higher vitamin C levels than adjacent healthy tissue.
Piyathilake, Chandrika J., et al. The accumulation of ascorbic acid by squamous cell carcinomas of the lung and larynx is associated with global methylation of DNA. Cancer, Vol. 89, July 1, 2000, pp. 171-76

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