Turmeric Overview

Turmeric and Cancer


­Perhaps one of turmeric's most exciting benefits is its potential ability to prevent cancer and even slow down the spread of cancer that has already developed. People who regularly include the spice in their diet have much lower occurrences of cancer.

In the case of colon cancer, turmeric's role as a powerful antioxidant is probably most significant. Cells throughout our bodies are constantly being turned over but in the colon, this process happens much faster and much more often. If free radicals get into the colon, they can disrupt this turnover and cause damage resulting in colon cancer. Turmeric's antioxidant properties prevent this from happening.

In the case of patients who already have cancer, turmeric could potentially be of help. Some reports indicate that turmeric has been capable of slowing down the spread of tumors in mice. As cancer cells spread and a tumor grows, transcription factors control the process. Curcumin, one of the main components in turmeric, actually shuts down many of these transcription factors. It can't stop them completely, but it slows down the process considerably. Turmeric's ability to inhibit COX-2 and NF kappa-B, as we discussed earlier, also comes into play [source: WHFoods]. Both of these inflammatory agents help contribute to cancer growth. Keeping them at bay could also help slow the formation of cancer cells.

Turmeric also looks promising as a treatment for lung and prostate cancer as well as childhood leukemia. Studies have shown that turmeric can completely stop the replication of leukemia cells in a cell culture [source: WHFoods]. While more time and resources are needed to unlock the full potential of turmeric, early results are encouraging.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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