Clinical Review

Lesson of the week: Scurvy in patients with cancer

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7145.1661 (Published 30 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1661
  1. Olivier Fain (olivier.fain@jvr.ap-hop-paris.fr), senior registrar,
  2. Emmanuel Mathieu, consultant,
  3. Michel Thomas, senior consultant
  1. Department of Internal Medicine, Jean Verdier Hospital, 93140 Bondy, France
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Fain
  • Accepted 11 September 1997

Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and still occurs in developed countries. Those most at risk of scurvy are elderly people, men who live alone, people who are dependent on alcohol, people with fadish diets,1 mentally ill patients, and those undergoing peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis.2 Scurvy is not usually reported in patients with cancer but its frequency is probably underestimated.

We describe six cases of scurvy in patients with cancer.

Case reports

From January 1993 to September 1996 we observed six cases of scurvy in 3723 patients with non-cancerous conditions and six cases in 219 patients with cancer. Tables 1 and 2 give details of the six cases in the patients with cancer. All of the patients were men. Two of them (cases 2 and 4) lived alone and three (cases 1, 2, and 4) drank heavily. …

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