During their experiments, the researchers decided to discover how vitamin C affects a process called angiogenesis.
In autumn, many people rely on vitamin C to “support their immunity” and protect themselves from colds, flu and Covid. And suddenly an alarming wave spread through social networks: a scientific work with shocking data was recently published. One of the most popular vitamins turned out to be… a powerful tumor growth stimulator. A team of Swedish and Chinese scientists led by Martin Bergo of the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm) performed experiments on both mice and human cells. What exactly the study showed and how we can continue to live with this knowledge, Komsomolskaya Pravda asked the head of the department of abdominal surgery and oncology of the Scientific and Clinical Center No. 2 of the Russian Scientific Center for Surgery named after him. academic. BV Petrovsky, Doctor of Medical Sciences Arkady Bedzhanyan.
WHEN GOOD BECOMES EVIL
“During their experiments, the researchers decided to find out how vitamin C influences the process called angiogenesis,” explains Arkady Bejanyan. – This is the formation of new blood vessels from existing ones (in essence, their proliferation. – Ed.). Angiogenesis plays a very important role in our body. For example, the formation of new blood vessels helps repair damage caused by wounds. Angiogenesis is also necessary for the growth and renewal of various tissues; ensures the development of the embryo. That is, this is a useful function inherent in us genetically.
But, as we know, what is good in one situation can become bad in another. Thus, the formation of blood clots, “designed” by nature to stop bleeding, in cardiovascular diseases causes heart attacks and strokes. Angiogenesis plays a cruel joke on the body when malignant tumors appear. “In cancer, new blood vessels feed the tumors and help them grow and spread,” says Dr. Bejanian. In addition, since cancer cells develop more actively than healthy ones, they no longer have a sufficient amount of “standard” oxygen. This condition is called hypoxia. While there, the tumor cells send special chemical signals that speed up the growth of new blood vessels (so that more oxygen and nutrients can flow through them).
A study by Martín Bergo’s team showed that, in addition to hypoxia, there is another factor that causes greater angiogenesis in tumors. It turned out that even a sufficient amount of oxygen can trigger the active proliferation of blood vessels in malignant tumors. And it helps… that’s right, that same vitamin C.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN
“The experiment showed that vitamin C activates the work of a certain gene, which, in turn, enhances angiogenesis in the tumor,” says the expert. – At the same time, we know from other studies carried out previously that the same vitamin plays a positive role. It is an antioxidant, which means it protects our cells, organs and tissues from so-called oxidative stress. This helps reduce the risk of various internal damages, including those that cause aging of the body and a number of diseases.
Taking into account the versatile effect of vitamin C, today it is impossible to give an unequivocal assessment of its benefits or harm to the body, concludes the oncologist. More research is needed. For example, much may depend on the dosage of the vitamin and the condition of the person taking it.
– Arkady Lavrentievich, it turns out that vitamin C most likely does not harm absolutely healthy people? And if a tumor already exists in the body, can it stimulate its growth?
– Although this is experimental data, the experiments were performed in mice and human cell cultures, and not in real patients. But most likely the image is exactly like this. By the way, the oncology community has long been wary of vitamin supplements. Because they promote tissue growth. And tumor cells divide more rapidly. And by nourishing healthy tissue, vitamins further accelerate tumor growth. Therefore, we generally recommend that our patients avoid taking vitamins during treatment to reduce the risk of cancer progression.
DOCTOR’S ADVICE: REDUCE RISKS
Still, the new data on vitamin C seems alarming even for those who consider themselves fairly healthy. After all, it is known that cancer can develop for years and that the disease remains hidden for a long time. What happens if a small tumor has already arisen in some corner of the body and we, without knowing it, depend on vitamin C? So, do we run the risk of stimulating the development of cancer cells?
– To avoid dangerous scenarios, we encourage everyone to undergo cancer screening in the first place. They are part of the free medical examination of compulsory health insurance and allow the most common types of cancer to be identified at an early stage, explains Arkady Bejanyan (for more information about these examinations, see the “Health” section in KP. Russia). – Secondly, it is not necessary to take vitamin supplements when it is not necessary. That is, if your actual vitamin deficiency has not been confirmed by medical research (testing). For example, the lack of vitamin C in modern people with a normal diet; in smokers who regularly took vitamin A, lung cancer developed more frequently than in those who did not take it; It practically doesn’t happen.
In general, when it comes to getting vitamins through food, it is very unlikely that this will carry any risk. Even for sick people, Dr. Bejanyan notes. But chemically synthesized dietary supplements should be treated with caution. And take them only when indicated, says the oncologist.
TO THE POINT
What else does the passion for vitamin supplements entail?
– If you take vitamin D without control, that is, without a doctor’s prescription, there is a risk of overdose. “Elevated levels of vitamin D in the blood can lead to impaired calcium metabolism in the body, which can lead to the growth of deposits on the walls of blood vessels. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and strokes,” warns geneticist and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, doctor of biological sciences Alexey Moskalev.
– Self-administration of vitamin B in the form of medications is very dangerous. “These vitamins participate in the processes associated with cell division in our body. This means that uncontrolled use increases the risk of cancer,” said endocrinologist Larisa Bavykina in an interview with KP.
– Several studies found that smokers who took vitamin A regularly developed lung cancer more often than those who did not take it.
– In addition, several studies have shown that an overdose of vitamin A and vitamin E in healthy people increases the risk of premature death.