Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Vitamin C and Cancer

Orac over at Respectful Insolence has a lengthy post about vitamin C, cancer, and Linus Pauling, the two-time Nobel prize-winning chemist who spent much of his later career peddling the dubious claim that vitamin C cures everything. Aside from my love of all things kooky, I once had a drunken argument with a close friend of mine that went on half the night about this. He was into megadosing vitamin C, and I told him, with a characteristic lack of subtlety, that he was full of shit. I later looked into the issue in depth and found that I was basically right (of course), but with a lot of "howevers" attached. The possibility does exist that megadoses of vitamin C, administered intravenously, could be an effective cancer treatment. But it is only a bare possibility without any good evidence thus far. Unfortunately, the mere fact that this possibility exists is enough for the contrarians and charlatans to cannonize Pauling as some sort of scientific martyr, given that he was scorned for his bizarre fixation with vitamin C and some of the shoddy work that went along with it. Orac explains in detail.