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Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Dec;62(6 Suppl):1385S-1392S.

Epidemiologic evidence for vitamin C and vitamin E in cancer prevention.

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  • 1Division of Nutrition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA.


Antioxidant nutrients have been hypothesized to be protective against cancer. Vitamin C is a major circulating water-soluble antioxidant, and vitamin E is a major lipid-soluble antioxidant. Many case-control and cohort studies have related cancer risk to estimates of nutrient intake derived from food intake reports. Diets high in fruit and vegetables, and hence high in vitamin C, have been found to be associated with lower risk for cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, colon, and lung. Diets high in added vegetable oils, and hence high in vitamin E, have been less consistently shown to be associated with cancer protection. This may be because vitamin E offers less protection against cancer or because the estimation of vitamin E intake is less accurate than is the estimation of vitamin C intake. In contrast with the findings from epidemiologic studies based on foods, observational studies of nutrients consumed in supplements and recent experimental trials provide little support for a strong protective role for vitamins C or E against cancer. If vitamins C or E are indeed protective against cancer, that protection may derive from their consumption in complex mixtures with other nutrients and with other bioactive compounds as found in the matrix provided by whole foods.

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