Vitamin C is an essential nutrient whose protective role in carcinogenesis has been discussed for more than 50 years. Epidemiologic studies suggest that the consumption of vitamin C-rich foods is associated with a lower risk of cancers of the esophagus and stomach. The observation that cancer patients have low leukocyte vitamin C levels led to therapeutic trials the results of which are controversial; the hypothesis that vitamin C acts like a drug must be questioned. On the other hand, ascorbic acid interacts with various tumor-inducing compounds, such as the precursors of N-nitroso compounds, to prevent the formation of tumors. Experiments with animals and cell cultures indicate that ascorbic acid can interfere with the metabolism of tumor promoters. It has also been postulated that ascorbic acid helps to prevent cancer by enhancing cellular immunity. In general, evidence suggests that vitamin C can inhibit the formation of some carcinogens.