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Curcumin In Turmeric May Block Spread Of Breast Cancer

By March 7, 2011

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Turmeric Powder
Photo © Pam Stephan

A critical ingredient in yellow curry - turmeric - may be able to block a molecule called RANKL (Receptor Activated Nuclear Factor Kappa Ligand).  The protein molecule RANKL can be found in some aggressive types of breast cancers - advanced disease that spreads beyond the original breast tumor site.  When greater amounts of RANKL are found in breast cancer, the tumor cells are more lively, growing, shedding, and spreading quickly - creating inflammation and opening the way for metastatic disease.  Scientists believe that using drugs that can block RANKL may prevent early stage breast cancer and slow the growth of advanced disease.  Curcumin, which occurs naturally in turmeric, can put a damper on RANKL proteins as well as fight inflammation and cell oxidation.

Not all types of breast cancer are aggressive - some are low-grade tumors which may grow slowly in place for years before they are detected.  Low-grade breast cancer may not contain RANKL molecules or may have very few of these cancer-stimulating proteins.  High-grade types of breast cancer such as Inflammatory Breast Cancer or Triple Negative Breast Cancer may be loaded with RANKL.  High-grade breast cancer can spread quickly to distant sites in the body, affecting bones, lungs, liver, or brain tissue.  A slow-growing breast tumor that is caught at an early stage can often by successfully treated, giving the patient a good chance at long-term survival.  But a cancer growing in overdrive, invading tissue beyond the breast may be deadly.  Knowing the grade of a breast tumor - and what fuels it - are very important parts of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Denosumab is a drug that targets RANKL  This drug is still in development and may eventually prove useful against many types of cancer.  You can't get this drug right now, if RANKL is driving your cancer, unless you're in a clinical trial. But if you look in your spice cabinet, you may find a jar of turmeric powder.  By itself, turmeric is not an anticancer drug, but when used with black pepper and oil - as in many curries - your cells can take up the powerful curcumin and benefit from it's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer properties.  Curcumin has been studied for its anticancer properties by scientists at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  Dr. Bharat Aggarwal has written about curcumin in turmeric, saying, "Curcumin has a very special nature which will work both for cancer prevention as well as for cancer therapy."

Herbs and spices like turmeric are wonderful additions to your anticancer diet, but they are not to be used exclusively to fight cancer.  Balance your fight against cancer with solid advice from your doctor, an anticancer diet,  regular exercise, a healthy weight, and good lifestyle choices.  You can reduce your cancer risk, or speed your recovery, by understanding how all these factors combine to boost your health.  Use turmeric on vegetables, fish and meats, and in salad dressings.  And next time you dine on yellow curry, you'll appreciate how healthy the golden turmeric sauce really is.

Read more about this, from a blog by: Dr. Nalini Chilkov

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March 9, 2011 at 9:34 am
(1) Marjorie says:

Thank you for bringing attention to this neglected area of cancer research! Dr. Bharat Aggarwal continues to explore the impact of these spices on cancer.

I find it fascinating and worthy of further exploration. Getting adequate funding for this type of research is very difficult and it’s a direction worthy of exploration.

More about this can be found here:

And there is a book, Healing Spices, which explores this topic.

March 9, 2011 at 11:04 am
(2) Bill says:

Could you expand on the topic of:
By itself, turmeric is not an anticancer drug, but when used with black pepper and oil

March 16, 2013 at 12:45 am
(3) Health benefits of Turmeric Curcumin says:

The turmeric supplement that contains good amount of curcumin overcomes verious problems not only cancer, but also Alzheimer, HIV infection, stroke and many more.

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