Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 4 May 2021
Turmeric and Cancer
Turmeric can be used as a spice in your cooking. The bright yellow powder can stand alone, but it’s frequently found in curry powder. It’s also available as a supplement. Fresh turmeric comes from a plant and resembles the ginger root, which is a close relative.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric, curcumin, or both may be listed on the supplement bottle. Turmeric supplements are used by some people to treat swelling and inflammation. However, can it help in the treatment or prevention of cancer?
According to some research, curcumin in turmeric can have a range of health benefits, including the ability to fight cancer cells. Several laboratory studies indicate that it could be effective against lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Others claim that curcumin can aid in the efficacy of chemotherapy.
It was discovered in a study of people with colorectal cancer that it could help delay the disease’s progression. Another study discovered that taking it every day may help reduce the risk of cancer in people who are predisposed to it.
However, the majority of data about turmeric and cancer comes from laboratory research on animals or cells. It is unclear what such studies mean for people who have cancer or are attempting to prevent it.
Curcumin is being used in cancer patients in clinical trials. According to preliminary results, it may help lower levels of a protein that is a key sign of prostate cancer. Other research looked at whether it could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in people with advanced pancreatic or colorectal cancers. The results of the pancreatic cancer study are not yet available, but the colorectal cancer study revealed some potential benefits that merit further investigation.
Other potential benefits are being investigated in various studies. An oral rinse containing turmeric has been found to help with mouth sores that are normal in people undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
Another study found that taking turmeric didn’t benefit people with skin issues or pain who were getting breast cancer radiation.
Turmeric is a safe spice to consume. There haven’t been many studies on the root’s side effects. It’s possible that high doses will affect your stomach. As curcumin is poorly absorbed by the human body, the majority of it is likely to pass right through you. Although if supplements have benefits, it’s important to remember that supplements aren’t controlled like drugs, making it difficult to know if you’re getting exactly what’s on the bottle.
Curcumin may interact with some cancer drugs, according to some research. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before taking turmeric or some other supplement.
Referenced on 1/5/2021
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Turmeric.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?”
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Turmeric.”
- Clinicaltrials.gov: “Trial of Curcumin to Prevent Progression of Low-risk Prostate Cancer Under Active Surveillance,” “Gemcitabine With Curcumin for Pancreatic Cancer,” “Combining Curcumin With FOLFOX Chemotherapy in Patients With Inoperable Colorectal Cancer (CUFOX),” “Effect of Preoperative Curcumin in Breast Cancer Patients (EPC),” “Curcumin for the Prevention of Radiation-induced Dermatitis in Breast Cancer Patients.”
- Cancer Research UK: “Turmeric.”
- Nutrition Reviews: “Curcumin and cancer: barriers to obtaining a health claim.”
- American Cancer Society: “Dietary Supplements: What is safe?”
- The Journal of Nutrition: “Curcumin Combined With FOLFOX Chemotherapy Is Safe and Tolerable in Patients With Metastatic Colorectal Cancer in a Randomized Phase IIa Trial."
- Natural Medicines: “Turmeric."