The Anti-Cancer Power of Turmeric

Curcumin suppresses cell signaling in head and neck cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Turmeric, the yellow spice that contributes to the unique flavors of Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, has long been revered for its medicinal properties. Recent research shows its power in fighting cancer.

Researchers have found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, blocks head and neck cancer cell growth, according to a pilot study. This work used human saliva to look at the effect of curcumin.

"Add curcumin or turmeric supplements if you're at risk for head and neck cancer."

Curcumin has been studied for seven years by a team of researchers led by Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, senior author of the study and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher. It has been found to suppress the head and neck cancer growth activities in both lab and animal studies.

This study involved 21 patients with head and neck cancers who were given 1,000 milligrams of curcumin. Samples of their saliva were examined before and after taking the curcumin.

In this study, patients had fewer cytokines, which promote inflammation and feed cancer cells. The cell signaling pathway that drives cancer growth was also inhibited, according to Wang.

Wang believes that curcumin could be added to other treatments to more effectively treat head and neck cancers. She says it could also be given to people at high risk of oral cancer, such as smokers, those who chew tobacco and people that carry the HPV virus.

Turmeric has been used for years because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Previous studies have found that it can suppress the growth of certain cancers.

Turmeric supplements are the only efficient way to get enough curcumin and are readily available anywhere that sells vitamin and minerals.

The study appears in the September 15, 2011 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

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Review Date: 
September 14, 2011
Last Updated:
September 14, 2011