Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is native to southern Asia. It is particularly present in the socio-cultural life of the Indian subcontinent, where it is considered as an outstanding plant thanks to its many properties: spice, food preservative, coloring, cosmetic and medicinal agent.
Turmeric has been widespread in south-east Asia since ancient times. But in recent decades it is also the subject of numerous scientific studies worldwide where scientists are constantly looking to better understand its nutritional and medical properties. Some of those studies have found turmeric has amazing cancer fighting potentiality. It can be used not only to prevent the formation of malignant tumors but also to combat reproduction and proliferation of cancerous cells.
Turmeric Cancer Prevention Properties
The potential of Curcuma longa in preventing cancers has been studied since 1985. The results of in vitro and in vivo experiments in mice showed a reduction of tumor development with the use turmeric extract and its active component, curcumin. It was also found that the extracts can inhibit cancer cell invasion and metastasis through activation of the tumor suppressor DnaJ-like heat shock protein 40.
Ever since, many other studies have been conducted on the inhibitory effects of turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin on the development of many cancers: colon, liver, lung, ovary, breast, leukemia, prostate, stomach, and pancreas. All these studies also suggest that curcumin has strong potential as an adjuvant chemotherapy agent.
According to epidemiological data, the prevalence of several cancers, including colon, breast, prostate and lung, was lower in Asian countries where people eat a lot of turmeric. In addition, numerous studies on animals exposed to cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) demonstrate that curcumin could prevent many cancers: lung, colon, stomach, liver, skin, breast, esophagus, lymphoma and leukemia.
Turmeric and Colorectal Cancer
Other researches on turmeric and cancer prevention have identified it as an effective chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer in rodents. The first findings of these studies have led some agencies, including the American Cancer Society, to advocate the use of this powerful spice against many cancers, including colorectal Cancer.
Another study suggests the number and size of intestinal polyps of people with familial polyposis decreased under the effect of curcumin (480 mg, 3 times a day) associated with quercetin (20 mg).
Turmeric and Breast Cancer
When it comes to turmeric and breast cancer, research is very active and the results of several clinical trials are expected. But previous studies showed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory curcumin may play a role in preventing and treating breast tumors. In vitro studies already indicate that curcumin inhibits the proliferation of cancerous cells by acting at various times in their development by promoting the production of enzymes that help the body get rid of tumoral cells.
But as for today, there are very few studies conducted on turmeric and breast cancer prevention, which makes it very difficult to reach a conventional conclusion. Clinically, data is still scarce. They were obtained with groups of no more than 25 people in the best case. Nevertheless, the results are promising. They suggest that consumption of this powerful could be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer (and others) in smokers. In people at risk, doses of 1 g to 8 g of curcumin per day for 3 months managed to regress some precancerous lesions.
Turmeric and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer has the highest occurrence rate among all malignant tumors. It is also the second-leading disorder causing cancer-realted death among men in the United States. As of 2015, about 30,000 men die each year of castration-resistant prostate cancer due to the inevitable progression of resistance to first-line treatment with docetaxel. So, anything that can restrain this disease must be taken into consideration.
Several researches have highlighted the therapeutic potential of curcumin (turmeric), used as a dietary supplement as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It was shown to decrease the proliferative potential and cause the death of cancer cells in both androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer. The safety profile of dietary curcumin in humans has been well-documented, and its therapeutic prospect in treating prostate cancer, especially for castration-resistant prostate cancer, has been evidenced in several cell culture systems and human xenograft mouse models.
Turmeric and Cancer Treatment
The anti-cancer properties of curcumin are taken very seriously by medical scientists. As of today, several clinical trials are underway, with new results come out every now and then. Although these results are very few, they are encouraging and promising. For instance, a recent one has shown curcumin (8 g daily), used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, resulted in some cases to stabilize the development of pancreatic cancer. This effect was also observed in patients suffering from colorectal cancer.
These preliminary studies have confirmed, however, studies with animals revealed the bioavailability of curcumin is very low. It is poorly absorbed from the intestines and the fraction absorbed is quickly converted and eliminated by the liver. The amounts that have proven effective in vitro experiments are difficult to achieve in the body. This is one reason why clinical trials using doses so important and focus on cancers of the digestive tract where the amount of curcumin remain high.
Turmeric can also be used as an adjuvant to conventional cancer treatments. Many results obtained in vitro or in vivo in animals indicate that the curcumin increases the therapeutic effects of radiation and chemotherapy by rendering cancer cells more sensitive to these treatments. It could also reduce their side effects.
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