Vitamin C: Epigenetic roles and cancer

Sushmita Mustafi, Gaofeng Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Vitamin C, which exists predominantly as ascorbate anion under physiological pH conditions, is an essential micronutrient for humans. Inadequate vitamin C consumption, certain genetic variation in transporters, and cancer-associated oxidative stress may collectively contribute to the intracellular vitamin C deficiency in cancer cells. In addition to being a well-known antioxidant, vitamin C serves as cofactor for various functionally important enzymes such as ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α hydroxylase. Due to the pivotal role of these enzymes in cancer, compensation for the intracellular vitamin C deficiency is implicated in therapeutic potentials for cancer treatment. Furthermore, vitamin C is also considered as a prodrug to deliver free radicals to preferentially damage cancer cells by intravenous infusion of high doses. Although using vitamin C to treat cancer has a long controversial history, the recently uncovered function of vitamin C in regulating the demethylation of DNA and histone likely revitalizes the hope for this easily accessible and inexpensive vitamin in cancer patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMolecular Nutrition
Subtitle of host publicationVitamins
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780128119075
ISBN (Print)9780128119365
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-hydroxymethylation
  • Cancer
  • Collagen
  • DNA demethylation
  • Free radicals
  • HIF-1α
  • TET methylcytosine dioxygenase
  • Vitamin C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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