A substance found in turmeric have anti-breast cancer effects, US research suggests

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian women and it is expected that 15270 women will be affected with the disease at the end of 2014.  Once one patient has been diagnosed with it , the life expectations would be up to 5 years, once it has reached the metastatic stage, the 5 year life prognosis drops up to an 80%.

Curcumin, a chemical substance found in foods like turmeric, has been studied for several years because its antioxidant, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties leading to promising treatments against different types of cancer.

Curcumin, component found in turmeric. Image Credit: Steve Jackson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
Curcumin, the next best thing against breast cancer?

The chemotherapeutic effects of this substance have been subject of different studies during the lasts years because it has been found that it can kill  to several varieties of tumour cells.

One of them has been developed by scientists from The University of Arizona with the extraction of the substance from turmeric and ginger. The extract was administered to the most dangerous type of breast cancer cells called MDA-MB-231

nationalbreastcancer metastatic
Metastatic breast cancer: When cancer cells start to spread to the rest of the body.  Image Credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

Curcumin from turmeric showed that it can stop the growth of cancer cells and it also inhibited the expression of the osteolytic factor PTHrP, which is a protein that cancer cells produce when the disease is at its metastatic stage, destroying the bones and causing pain to the patients.

 How does it work?

The extract taken from turmeric targets the cancer cells acting directly in their cellular cycle and producing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and also blocking PTHrP secretion, giving a hope to the sufferers of this disease.  The outcomes of this clinical supports other studies related to the chemical substance and its importance in preventative and therapeutic medicine, however scientists are still working in how the curcumin absorption can be improved into the human body.

The woman who cooke the breakfast curry in Prithvi Raj Marg.
Woman cooking curry, turmeric is one of the main ingredients of this meal. Image Credit: Greg Willis via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0]
 With the results of these studies we can see that a diet based in these type of foods may have an influence in the fight against cancer  and other degenerative diseases.  It would not be a coincidence that Indian women have the lowest incidence in breast cancer around the world.

From now on girls, it would be a good idea to have curry in our menu, what do you think ;)?


Gupta, S, Patchva, S, Koh, W, & Aggarwal, B 2012, ‘Discovery of curcumin, a component of golden spice, and its miraculous biological activities’Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology, 39, 3, pp. 283-299

Wright, L, Frye, J, Gorti, B, Timmermann, B, & Funk, J n.d.,2013. ‘Bioactivity of Turmeric-derived Curcuminoids and Related Metabolites in Breast Cancer’, Current Pharmaceutical Design, 19, 34, pp. 6218-6225

Breast Cancer Network Australia

6 Responses to “SPICE UP YOUR LIFE”

  1. Maria Fernanda Carrillo says:

    Hi Jiaz, it has been found that India has the lowest incidence of cancer, and turmeric (ingredient of curry) is the object of the study, not curry . Therefore the frequent intake turmeric which can be used in other dishes besides curry can be a factor of their lowest incidence. The habit of having healthy diet could be a good suggestion for the prevention of this and other chronic diseases. For further information you can read the scientific papers that I’ve included in my post. All the best!! 🙂

  2. jiaz3 says:

    I am curious if India or Thailand people can have a low level rate for breast cancer since they eat curry everyday.

  3. Maria Fernanda Carrillo says:

    Dear rsleaby thanks for your comment. PTHrP or Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein is a protein which is secreted by cancer cells, when this substance is secreted by this type of cells it can cause hypercalcemia and when it is secreted by breast cancer cells at stage 4 (Metastasis) it causes osteolysis (destruction of bone cells) producing fractures and therefore, pain. Therefore blocking this protein in breast cancer patients, could avoid these unpleasant symptoms. You can click on the hyperlink of PTHrP for more information 🙂

  4. Maria Fernanda Carrillo says:

    Dear weslew, thanks for your collaboration in my post. That is why I summarized your points of view in my post that the researchers are still doing more work related to the improvement of the bioavailaibility and biaccessibility of curcumin and I also suggest the addition of the mentioned ingredient in our daily diet, given that Indian women are get used to these types of food and developed countries have a different concept of diet, therefore including not only turmeric, another foods which contain another types of antioxidants would be a valuable recommendation. There is still more work to do at the moment but in the meantime, in order to not make useless the different outcomes of the numerous studies related to the properties of curcumin, scientists are still working in the development and design of an improved formulation that could enhance the absorption of it. You can check some of them http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19491009, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3918523/

  5. rsleaby says:

    Interesting post Maria, I will certainly being adding curry to my menu! What does PTHrP do, and why is blocking PTHrP secretion beneficial? Thanks!

  6. wesleyw says:

    This was a really interesting piece, Ben Goldacre did a really good chapter on this topic in his book ‘Bad Science’ warning us to be weary of the difference between clinical trials and applications to real life which you did touch on abit. In this case the difference between using a highly concentrated and purified extract of curcumin directly onto cancer cells as opposed to eating cumin in your diet. Curcumin is actually very hard to absorb through your gastrointestinal tract and much of it would simply exit from the other end. Thus extremely large amounts of cumin over a long period of time are required to see any effect. Most people in western countries would not reach sufficient levels of curcumin through their cumin consumption whereas many Indian women who eat cumin almost everyday for their whole lives would see a much bigger effect. While curcumin is undoubtably efficacious, it isn’t that effective in the population and people need to realise when research can or cannot be translational to their lives.