Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 735–744 | Cite as

Antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E for the prevention and treatment of cancer

  • Ian D. CoulterEmail author
  • Mary L. Hardy
  • Sally C. Morton
  • Lara G. Hilton
  • Wenli Tu
  • Di Valentine
  • Paul G. Shekelle
Original Articles


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the evidence of the supplements vitamin C and vitamin E for treatment and prevention of cancer.

METHODS: Systematic review of trials and meta-analysis.

DATA SOURCES AND MAIN RESULTS: Thirty-eight studies showed scant evidence that vitamin C or vitamin E beneficially affects survival. In the ATBC Cancer Prevention Study Group, no statistically significant effect of treatment was seen for any cancer individually, and our pooled relative risk (regardless of tumor type) for α-tocopherol alone was 0.91 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.74, 1.12). All cause mortality was not significant. In the Linxian General Population Trial, the relative risks for cancer death for vitamin C (combined with molybdenum) was 1.06 (95% CI: 0.92, 1.21) and for vitamin E (combined with β-carotene and selenium) was 0.87 (95% CI: 0.76, 1.00). We identified only 3 studies that reported statistically significant beneficial results: vitamin C (in combination with BCG) was found to be beneficial in a single trial of bladder cancer and vitamin E (in combination with ω-3 fatty acid) increased survival in patients with advanced cancer. In the ATBC trial, in analyses of 6 individual cancers, the prevention of prostate cancer in subjects treated with α-tocopherol was statistically significant (RR=0.64, 95% CI: 0.44, 0.94).

CONCLUSIONS: The systematic review of the literature does not support the hypothesis that the use of supplements of vitamin C or vitamin E in the doses tested helps prevent and/or treat cancer in the populations tested. There were isolated findings of benefit, which require confirmation.

Key words

vitamin C vitamin E systematic review cancer antioxidant 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian D. Coulter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 6
    Email author
  • Mary L. Hardy
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sally C. Morton
    • 1
  • Lara G. Hilton
    • 1
  • Wenli Tu
    • 1
  • Di Valentine
    • 1
  • Paul G. Shekelle
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.RAND, Southern California Evidence-based Practice CenterSanta MonicaUSA
  2. 2.School of DentistryUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Southern California University of Health SciencesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Cedars-Sinai Integrative Medicine Medical Group Inc.Los AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare SystemRANDLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Samueli Institute for Information BiologyAlexandriaUSA

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