Vitamin C & Healthy skin.
Vitamin C’s relationship with a healthy skin could not be more obvious. Long before a lack of the vitamin was officially connected to scurvy in the 1930’s, sailors had been curing themselves from vitamin C deficiency by taking citrus fruit on long voyages.
Vitamin c is involved in many of the reactions required to make collagen, the building material of the body’s tissues, including the skin.
As people age and the skin suffers from sun damage, there is an increase in elastosis, in other words an increase in the degeneration of the elastic tissue which affects the connective tissue.
The role of vitamin C in preventing elastosis has long been debated and its role in preventing or aiding and abetting skin cancer is also controversial.
Vitamin C’s relationship to skin cancer is confusing the scientists.
The three most common skin cancers are Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and Melanoma.
BCC is fairly common and does not usually metastasize to other areas of the body, although it can enter the bone. Approximately 40% of people with BCC will have a recurrence within 5 years.
SCC is the next most common non-melanoma skin cancer and it specifically affects keratinocytes. The risk of getting SCC is related to skin type and exposure to UV.
Melanoma is the most dangerous of all skin cancers. Melanoma is the main cause of deaths due to skin cancer, even though only 2% of all skin cancers are classed as melanomas.
In 2007, an Australian group published a paper that revealed there were more cases of BCC in people who took vitamin E and vitamin C supplements than those who did not. However taking lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids) reduced the risk of SCC.
In contrast to this, a 2011 study investigated the effects of diet on elastosis on people with BCC. The results showed that there was increased elastosis in people with BCC who smoked but that a diet including coffee, fats and vegetables did not relate to any differences to elastosis. In contrast, people who ate a diet rich in fruits, tea and foods containing vitamins E and C showed less elastosis.
Having noted the considerable increase in cases of melanoma in Northern Italy, a team of researchers began a study on the effects of diet and melanoma risk. The study published in 2013 specifically looked at the relationship between vitamin C intake and the risk of developing melanoma. 380 patients with melanoma were included in the study and their results were compared to a group of 719 controls. Results showed that a higher vitamin C intake lowered the risk of developing melanoma.
New research sheds light on the matter
Newly published this month, a study shows that epigenetics is the key to shedding light on the situation. Epigenetics is the term used to explain external factors that can cause changes in DNA. One such change has been identified for melanoma cancers and it appears that vitamin C can affect this epigenetic change. A team of researchers took melanoma cell lines at different stages of malignancy and treated them with physiological doses of vitamin C. Results showed that the cell lines moved towards the status of healthy cells. They also found the vitamin c decreased the malignancy of metastatic cells. The research group concludes that their results show that vitamin C has great potential as an epigenetic treatment for melanoma.
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Vitamin C and skin cancer references