Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric long used in traditional healing practices, has been found to potentially block the spread of prostate and breast cancers.
A new study of laboratory mice led by a research team at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich found the anti-inflammatory polyphenol, which gives curry dishes their characteristic color, blocks the production of two proteins by tumor cells that promote the spread of cancer to other parts of the body — known as metastasis.
"Due to the action of curcumin, the tumor cells synthesize smaller amounts of [proteins] that promote metastasis," said lead researcher Dr. Beatrice Bachmeier. "As a consequence, the frequency of metastasis formation in the lungs is significantly reduced, in animals with breast cancer, as we showed previously, or carcinoma of the prostate, as demonstrated in our new study."
Powdered turmeric has been used for centuries to treat osteoarthritis and other illnesses. Scientists believe the active ingredient, curcumin, inhibits inflammatory reactions. Bachmeier said the new study suggests curcumin may help prevent breast and prostate cancers — both of which are linked to inflammation – and reduce the risk of tumors spreading in those who have been diagnosed with the diseases.
"This does not mean that the compound should be seen as a replacement for conventional therapies,” she added. “However, it could play a positive role in primary prevention — before a full-blown tumor arises — or help to avert formation of metastases. In this context the fact that the substance is well tolerated is very important, because one can safely recommend it to individuals who have an increased tumor risk."
She said a daily intake of up to 8 grams of curcumin is regarded as safe.