Turmeric: How this Herb Prevents and Possibly Treats Cancer


By now, if you’re ardent follower of our articles, you’d already know about this herb commonly used in Indian and Asian cooking. But did you know that there are so many more benefits to turmeric than just food? Whether eaten raw, cooked, or as a supplement, turmeric is rich in various nutrients.

In fact, studies prove that turmeric and its active component, curcumin have natural anti-cancer, radio-protective, chemo-protective and chemo-preventive properties. Turmeric anti-oxidant property also helps in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Let’s talk about the different benefits of turmeric in cancer.


Turmeric Prevents Inflammation

Did you know that chronic inflammation can result in cancer, especially gastric cancer? However, strong anti-inflammatory agents like turmeric and curcumin can act on various pathways to stop inflammation. They do not have side effects like anti-inflammatory drugs that do not contain steroids.

Several studies have found that curcumin targets inflammation in cancer. This means that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory action can help in chemoprevention and reduce the symptoms related to cancer.




It Terminates Cancer Cells

Turmeric has become a cherished health aid because of its anti-cancer component. As a matter of fact, curcumin, the active ingredient contained in turmeric, has been a subject of several studies for its anti-cancer effect.

Although the exact trigger of cancer has not been determined, but it is believed to be the consequence of a disturbance in cells that eventually and gradually affect proteins that control cell life and activity. Due to this, cells become immortal and hyperproliferative, leading to the spread of cancer in the body.

According to a 2013 study published in Biofactors, curcumin’s anti-cancer activity is a result of a blockage of cell signaling pathways at several levels. In fact, another 2015 study published in Molecules states that curcumin acts on certain targets that cause cancer. These targets include growth factors, cancer-inducing molecules, transcription factors, proteins that regulate cell cycle, and inflammatory proteins.

These actions make curcumin an effective anti-cancer agent with prospects for future cancer treatment options.


It Has Anti-Tumor Property

A tumor is a mass of cells that can either be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non cancerous). Luckily, curcumin and its derivatives are known to have anti-tumor properties and chemotherapeutic effect.

Curcumin performs its anti-tumor activity by working on certain proteins and hormones that induce tumor growth and so block tumors from progressing.


It Acts As a Chemopreventive Agent

Chemoprevention involves the application of certain agents that inhibit possible premalignant cells from developing into cancer. It is preventing cancer in its initial stages and killing it.

Did you know that turmeric and curcumin act as chemopreventive agents and kill fully-developed cancerous cells? Well, researchers have identified the curcumin’s inhibition of nuclear factor-kappa B to be behind its chemopreventive action.

Interestingly, according to a scientific paper published in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, dietary turmeric minimizes the risk of cancer. Now this is pretty good news to anyone who has a genetic history of cancer.

The anti-viral property of curcuminoids and its ability to block the activation of cancer-inducing genes helps in killing HPV infection so as to prevent cervical cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer.




It Prevents Metastasis

The spread of cancer throughout the body is called metastasis. This is a situation where cancer cells detach from their main origin and spread through the blood and lymph. These cancer cells fight off attacks from the immune system and gather in various organs initiating cancer.

Metastasis is the major reason for morbidity in cancer. However, studies have found that curcumin can help in preventing metastasis. In fact, curcumin’s ability to interact with certain proteins and control their activity helps prevent the invasion and multiplication of cancerous cells. It also blocks the formation of new blood vessels in tumors.

Some experimental studies have shown curcumin’s ability to inhibit metastasis in thyroid cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Simply, what curcumin does is to block metastasis by attacking the growth of cancer cells and stopping them from invading body tissues.


Stops the Growth of Pre-cancerous Lesions

As stated earlier, curcumin acts as a chemopreventive agent and stops cancer cells from developing and growing.

In a clinical trial carried out in National Taiwan University College of Medicine, 25 persons were studied to assess the effect of curcumin. These people suffered 5 different high-risk medical conditions such as oral leucoplakia, bowen’s disease, intestinal metaplasia, and resected urinary bladder cancer.

It was observed that after being treated with curcumin daily, 7 of them showed some improvement and only 2 persons developed malignancy in spite of the treatment.

No side effects were recorded even at high doses curcumin was found to be safe and effective in chemoprevention. Generally, the study suggests that curcumin helps in regulating pre-cancerous progression in various cancer than conventional anti-microbial therapy.

What this means is that curcumin when taken orally, can help in regulating the growth and halting the development of pre-cancerous lesions especially in oral cancers.


It Acts As an Anti-carcinogenic Agent

Agents that are responsible for causing cancer are called carcinogens. Carcinogens could be substances in your food, environment or an exposure to radiation, among other things. Fortunately, turmeric and curcumin have anti-carcinogenic action. They protect the body from carcinogens’ toxic effects and thus, prevent cancer.

Curcumin carries out its anti-carcinogenic action by increasing antioxidant enzymes levels and controlling the actions of nuclear factor-kappa B. This action prevents inflammation and the growth of lymphoma. It also protects against the development of skin cancer necessitated by an exposure to harmful sun rays. Curcumin does this by targeting several biochemical pathways.

Curcumin simply counteracts carcinogens’ toxic effects or cancer-inducing agents so as to prevent cancer.



It Destroys Cancer Cells and Protects Normal Cells

Studies have suggested that curcumin selectively kills cancer cells and protects the normal ones from toxicity. In fact, according to a scientific paper published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2010, curcumin protects normal cells from toxicity brought on as a result of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It does so by utilizing its anti-inflammatory effect and raising its antioxidant defenses.

Unlike other standard anti-cancer agents that are toxic to normal cells and cancer cells; curcumin selectively destroys cancer cells and protects normal cells from toxicity. This makes turmeric a good alternative to conventional cancer treatment.


It Betters Antioxidant Defenses

An imbalance between antioxidants and prooxidants can greatly influence cancer growth. But curcumin and other curcuminoids are antioxidants that contribute have anti-tumor effect. Curcumin protects cells from toxicity due to radiation therapy and chemotherapy elevating antioxidant enzymes levels.

In a study published in Molecules, 2010, curcumin is mentioned as helpful in the prevention and treatment of blood-related cancer.

In another study by Nutrition and Cancer, it was reported that when patients receiving radiotherapy took curcumin supplements, it improved their antioxidant capacity. More so, turmeric powder with the anti-cancer drug called imatinib helps in improving the antioxidant status in severe myeloid leukemia.


It Controls Immune Responses in the Fight against Cancer

Cancer development is highly influenced by the immune system because it naturally initiates anti-tumor responses. However, cancer cells find a way to avoid and suppress such responses.

According to a study published in Cell Division, curcumin is effective for restoring immune function in cancer. Curcumin actually balances the number of cytokines and immune cells that help in delivering an anti-tumor effect. It also improves the potency of cancer vaccines and immunotherapy.


The Bottom Line

It’s now no news that turmeric and curcumin are great anti-cancer agents—helping to curb cancer and detoxify the body from cancer-inducing agents.

Turmeric and curcumin are good adjunctive treatment for cancer.