Turmeric is often touted as a natural remedy for preventing or treating different types of cancer, including breast cancer and skin cancer. An Indian spice widely available in supplement form, turmeric is also used to treat conditions like arthritis and indigestion. Although scientists have yet to prove that turmeric can boost your cancer defense, preliminary research shows that turmeric may possess some cancer-fighting properties.
The Science Behind Turmeric and Cancer
Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin. Findings from some animal research and test-tube studies suggest that curcumin may help stave off cancer, possibly due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating benefits. In a 2010 research review published in Current Medical Chemistry, for instance, curcumin was found to increase apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).
The review's authors also note that clinical trials testing turmeric's cancer-fighting effects are scarce. Indeed, while studies on mice indicate that curcumin may help combat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer, there is currently a lack of human-based research to confirm these findings.
Should You Use Turmeric to Fight Cancer?
The American Cancer Society states that laboratory and animal tests on turmeric "look very promising," but cautions that more research is needed before turmeric can be recommended for cancer prevention or treatment. While turmeric is generally considered safe when consumed as a spice (in foods like curry, for example), the National Institutes of Health warn that turmeric may cause nausea and/or diarrhea when taken in large amounts.
It's important to note that using turmeric as a substitute for medical treatment for cancer can have serious health consequences. If you're considering the use of turmeric in treatment or prevention of cancer (or any other condition), make sure to consult your physician about the potential benefits and risks.
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