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The body usually keeps tight control of vitamin C levels in the blood.
However, a new US-based investigation, led by Dr Qi Chen from the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, Ohio, found that the mechanism can be by-passed if the vitamin is injected straight into the bloodstream instead of passing through the digestive system.
When this is done it releases the powerful anti-cancer potential of the vitamin.
Experiments showed that high levels of vitamin C in the blood generate hydrogen peroxide, which is lethal to tumours. The chemical forms in the spaces between cancer cells, damaging membranes, upsetting metabolism and scrambling DNA.
Even the growth of aggressive, hard-to-treat cancers was held back in the studies. But healthy tissues appeared to resist the effects.
For the latest study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, examined the effects of vitamin C on cells grown in laboratories. Two hours of exposure to the vitamin significantly cut the survival of ovarian, pancreatic and brain tumour (glioblastoma) cancer cells.