Turmeric in breast cancer

Fight breast cancer with Turmeric – By DR. RICHARD BELIVEAU, QMI AGENCY
Curcumin, the primary compound found in the Indian spice turmeric, is becoming increasingly well known as a nutrient with significant potential to prevent cancer, notably breast cancer.

Turmeric is a bright yellow-coloured spice made by grinding the dried roots of the Curcuma longa, a plant and member of the ginger family.

Particularly popular in India, turmeric has been used for more than 4,000 years as a crucial ingredient to many of the country’s traditional dishes (especially in the making of curry) and as a remedy to treat various illnesses.

In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), turmeric is commonly used as a treatment for external medical issues such as burns, insect stings and bruises, as well as internally as a remedy for gastrointestinal problems, arthritis and various inflammatory illnesses.

Research conducted in recent years has shown that the health benefits associated with turmeric are primarily due to curcumin, the main polyphenol found in the spice. One of this compound’s most significant qualities is its anti-inflammatory properties, an ability that comes from its capacity to block certain genes that are essential to the production of molecules that cause inflammation by attacking immune system cells.

From a clinical point of view, this activity is interesting because such inflammation is closely linked to the development of most chronic illnesses, particularly heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.


It has been suspected for several years that the frequent consumption of turmeric could be participating in the low incidence of certain cancers amongst the people of India. For example, while breast cancer is one of the most common types of the disease in North America, the incidence of breast cancer amongst Indian women is about five times lower.

Numerous studies have suggested that turmeric’s preventative abilities is linked to its ability to attack cancer cells in different ways:

• It can inhibit the growth of many types of cancer cells;
It can stimulate the death of these cancer cells through a process called apoptosis;
It can inhibit resistance to chemotherapy;
• It can inhibit angiogenesis, which is the formation of blood vessels in tumours;
• It can inhibit inflammation.

Recently, researchers from Michigan showed that curcumin also has the ability to interfere with cancerous stem cells in mammary tissue. These stem cells play a significant role in the progression of cancer as they have the ability to continually produce new cancer cells.

Worse still, the stem cells are very resistant to chemotherapy medications and are therefore capable of re-forming a tumour shortly after treatments have ended.


By using stem cells isolated from mammary tissue, the researchers observed that the addition of curcumin quickly halted their growth, while the compound had no effect on normal cells. This effect becomes even more significant when accompanied by the presence of piperine, a compound found in black pepper and recognized for its ability to increase curcumin’s bioavailability.

These results are very significant as they suggest that the inclusion of turmeric in one’s diet could prevent breast cancer as well as improve the efficiency of cancer treatments by reducing the number of cancerous stem cells found in the tumour. It is also interesting to note that a preliminary study conducted in France involving women with advance breast cancer showed that curcumin is well-tolerated and improves the patients’ response to chemotherapy.

In addition to these studies, more than 15 clinical trials are underway in some of the world’s top hospitals to gauge the efficiency of turmeric in treatments for various cancers.

The coming years look to be very promising when it comes to the creation of new cancer therapies based on the preventative properties of this spice.