In 2013, 11,955 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer. The incidence of the disease has reduced in the past 40 years due to the introduction of the pap smear test, but it’s still very prevalent, and often occurs in young women. Research has shown that getting adequate vitamin C in your diet can help to reduce cell changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer.

A meta-analysis was published on this subject in the journal Nutrition and Cancer. It looked at a large number of studies that were done on vitamin C and its relationship with cervical cancer. The overall analysis showed that vitamin C intake was significantly associated with a reduced risk of cervical neoplasia. The more vitamin C the women obtained, through diet or supplements, the lower their rate of cervical cancer.

The researchers found that even just increasing vitamin C intake by 50 mg per day was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. 50 mg is such a small amount; it’s the level of vitamin C found in an orange. Most fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but it is a fragile vitamin that is easily damaged by heat (cooking) and it deteriorates in produce that has been stored for some time. That’s why shopping at a local farmer’s market or growing some of your own fruit or vegetables is so beneficial. If you don’t always have time to include adequate fresh produce in your diet, a vitamin C supplement may be worthwhile.