Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the suppression of proliferation of several types of cancer. Over-expression of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and type I insulin-like growth factor (IGF) receptor are important for proliferation and protection from apoptosis in malignancies. However, its specific mechanisms, especially the interaction between COX-2 expression and IGF-I axis mediated by vitamin C, remain yet to be clarified. Therefore, we investigated the effects of vitamin C on the proliferation of melanoma cells via the modulation of COX-2 expression and IGF-I axis. As a result, we found that 1.0 mM vitamin C inhibits the proliferation of SK-MEL-2 without induction of apoptosis. At that moment, IGF-II production was decreased, followed by the inhibition of COX-2 activity. IGF-IR expression was also down-regulated by vitamin C treatment. It coincided with the result from the inhibition of COX-2 by NS-398 and COX-2 siRNA. In addition, the decreased IGF-IR expression by vitamin C was restored by the treatment of recombinant prostaglandin E2. Finally, we determined whether the signal pathway would be involved in vitamin C-induced IGF-II and IGF-IR down-regulation. When the cells were exposed to SB203580, a specific inhibitor of p38 MAPK, COX-2 expression was dramatically recovered. In addition, phosphorylated p38 MAPK was increased after vitamin C treatment. Taken together, vitamin C suppresses proliferation of the human melanoma cell line SK-MEL2 via the down-regulation of IGF-II production and IGF-IR expression, which is followed by the activation of p38 MAPK and the inhibition of COX-2 expression. J. Cell. Physiol. 216: 180–188, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.