Vivian Janney Heston, 71, a former managing editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, died of cancer Friday at her home in Bethesda.

Mrs. Heston joined NIH as a secretary in 1957. A year later, she became a staff member of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In 1962, she was named assistant managing editor, and held that position until 1974, when she was named managing editor. She retired in 1975.

During her career at the Journal, which publishes technical papers on cancer research, Mrs. Heston received two NIH Merit Awards.

Mrs. Heston was born in Stryker, Ohio. She graduated from Michigan State University and then taught English in high schools in Dansville and East Lansing, Mich.

She moved to the Washington area when her former husband, Dr. Walter E. Heston, became a cancer researcher at NIH.

Mrs. Heston was a member of Bethesda Presbyterian Church. She was a Bible teacher there, a former president of the Women of the Church, and a member of the church's session.

Survivors include three sons, David, of Glen Arm, Md., Donald, of Chillicothe, Ill., and Dr. Thomas, of Parkesburg, Pa.; a brother, Dr. James Janney, of Bowling Green, Ohio; a sister, Helen Brown, of North Webster, Ind., and seven grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions in Mrs. Heston's name to the Memorial Fund of Bethesda Presbyterian Church.