Cancer Prevention in a Spice
The Healing Power of Turmeric
This year, an estimated 52,610 people (38,380 men and 14,230 women) will develop cancer in the head and neck, leading to an estimated 11,500 deaths (or just under 22 percent), according to statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society’s publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. New hope may lie in an ancient spice.
A pilot study conducted at the University of California-Los Angeles Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has shown that eating curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric, works to suppress a cell-signaling pathway that spurs the growth of malignancies in the head and neck. Further, curcumin reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines (naturally occurring regulatory proteins) within saliva.
Turmeric is widely used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking (curry, for example), and has been long valued for its anti-inflammatory properties. In India, women have used it for centuries as an anti-aging agent rubbed into the skin, as a poultice to promote wound healing and as a treatment for menstrual cramps.