Vitamin C vs. Cancer

Cancer & C Book
Review copyright  C  2000 Andrew W. Saul. 

Vitamin C and Cancer: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy
by Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, with Linus Pauling
1999: Quarry Press, Kingston, ON 
ISBN  1-55082-078-8
Softcover, 180 pp plus bibliography and 74 pp of appendicies 

I first encountered Linus Pauling's writings in 1973 when I  was a student at Australian National University.  In addition to being the author of my organic chemistry textbook, he had also just visited our university. In the uni refectory (that's "campus dining hall" for you Yanks), we privately made fun of Pauling.  A physics student and I casually calculated on a serviette (that's a paper napkin) that you'd have to do nothing but eat oranges all day if you wanted to consume the amount of vitamin C that Pauling recommended. Two Nobels or not, we thought he was crazy, and we were not alone our sophomoric view.

Some years later, now back in America and with two kids in diapers, I was reading all the Pauling papers and books I could get my hands on: Vitamin C and the Common Cold, How to Live Longer and Feel Better, Orthomolecular Psychiatry (co-authored with David Hawkins, MD)  And that is how I discovered Abram Hoffer: Linus Pauling kept referring to Dr. Hoffer's clinical megavitamin research, which included studies of cancer patients.  Life for me has not been the same since.

Cancer may be humanity's most feared disease, and with reason.  Dr. Hoffer effectively removes much of that fear, replacing it with well-researched, clinically-tested, practical nutritional advice. And, he provides dozens of documented case histories of vitamin-taking patients who achieved significantly longer life, and vastly improved quality of life.  I cannot imagine a more important and uplifting book for the family of a cancer patient than Vitamin C and Cancer

Not everyone agrees with this.

Certain politically powerful medical authorities have openly discouraged cancer patients from taking large doses of vitamin C.  It is unethical for any doctor to deny therapy that might be of value to her patient. Still, the number of cancer patients who have ever had their doctor recommend a therapeutic trial of large quantities of vitamin C remains small. I predict that there will eventually be a class-action lawsuit brought against orthodox medicine by patients who were wrongly kept from supportive high-dose vitamin therapy. 

The grounds for disparaging vitamin C usually center on three inaccurate claims: 1) vitamin C is ineffective against cancer; 2) vitamin C interferes with conventional cancer therapies; and 3) vitamin C is in itself harmful to the cancer patient.

Hoffer refutes each of these fallacious views with the authority of 50 years of medical research and medical practice behind him. 

So let's let him set the record straight:
1) There are many controlled studies that demonstrate that vitamin C is indeed effective against cancer.  These studies are discussed in Hoffer's book, and in Cameron and Pauling's Cancer and Vitamin C (revised edition, 1993).  Some of the most interesting studies were done in Japan, using over 30,000 mg of vitamin C a day.  Extensive clinical reports from orthomolecular (megavitamin) physicians such as Dr. Hoffer and Robert F. Cathcart III, MD, indicate that even higher quantities of vitamin C are even more effective.

2) Vitamin C reduces the side-effects of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.  Patients on a strong nutritional program have far less nausea, and often experience little or no hair loss during chemo. They experience reduced pain and swelling following radiation.  They have faster, uncomplicated healing after surgery.  Such vitamin-mediated benefits mean that oncologists can give vitamin-taking patients the full dose of chemotherapy, rather than having to cut the dose to keep the patient from giving up entirely.  Obviously, full-strength chemo is more likely to be effective against cancer than reduced-strength chemo. A similar benefit is at work with radiation therapy: the full intensity of treatment is far better tolerated by an optimally-nourished patient.  With surgery, the risk reduction aspects of vitamins, both pre- and post-op, are well established. Therefore, vitamin C, far from being detrimental, makes a most positive contribution to the conventional treatment of cancer.

3) Even at very high doses, Vitamin C is an unusually safe substance; countless studies have verified this. As an antioxidant, collagen-building co-enzyme, and reinforcer of the immune system, vitamin C is vital to a cancer patient. Yet the blood work of cancer patients will invariably show that they have abnormally low levels of the vitamin. What is dangerous is vitamin deficiency. 

Fortunately there are physicians like Dr. Hoffer who still look to the patient, and not the test tube, for their answers. A patient's therapeutic response is the highest of all guiding principles in medicine.  If it works, do it.  If it seems to work, do it.  If it does no harm, do it.  Remember: If there were a sure cure for cancer, you would have heard about it.  There isn't.  But this just makes it all the more important for patients to demand adjunctive vitamin therapy from their physicians.  The number of conventionally-educated, hospital trained doctors that support vitamin C therapy is growing.  Hoffer was among the first.  Your oncologist could be next.  Let her read your copy of Vitamin C and Cancer.


Andrew Saul, PhD

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