Research found several benefits derived from the curcumin compound in turmeric. It can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. One professor at MD Anderson in Texas, studied the effect of turmeric on cancer. He said that from all the studies he and his team made, there is no kind of cancer cell that has not been affected by curcumin. This can attest to the effectiveness of turmeric in cancer treatment and prevention.
Curcumin Effect On Breast Cancer Treatment
This was demonstrated in a study involving breast cancer cells, classified as triple negative. This type of breast cancer has very poor prognosis. In the study, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells were exposed to curcumin. Results found that curcumin was effective in inhibiting the growth and reproduction of the TNBC cells. This effect comes from the ability of curcumin to alter the signaling pathways that influence the molecular mechanism of cancer cells.
Antioxidant Action of Turmeric Curcumin
The buildup of free radicals in the body creates damage. It interferes with the basic functions of the cells. These damage the cellular membrane and prevent sufficient repair. Once the cell membrane is damaged, other free radicals can easily enter the cell. It goes straight to the nucleus and cause damage to the DNA. Damaged DNA is a precursor to cancer formation.
Antioxidants attach to free radicals and inactivate them. They are like handcuffs that prevent these rogue molecules from doing any damage. Once bound, free radicals are then brought to the liver and kidneys for detoxification and excretion.
Anti-Inflammatory Actions of Turmeric Curcumin
Turmeric can inhibit the action of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). This is an enzyme that plays a very important role in the development of chronic inflammation. This kind of inflammation is another precursor to cancer.
Curcumin acts by inhibiting the production, release and action of COX 2 enzyme, stopping chronic inflammation that promotes the development of cancer. This effect can lower the risk of developing cancer as a result of a hyperactive inflammatory response. This can also help in improving the prognosis of cancer patients.
Epigenetic effects of Turmeric Curcumin
This effect refers to the ability of a compound to influence the function or expression of certain genes in the body. Turmeric has shown epigenetic abilities in numerous researches. Turmeric has the ability to influence the signaling pathways that affect gene expression particularly those pathways that involve genes that play roles in cancer formation or cure.
Turmeric Can reduce The Size Of Cancer Tumors
This is considered as a crucial step in curing cancer. One study demonstrated this turmeric effect in a Phase II clinical trial. The participants had pancreatic cancer and did not undergo chemotherapy. Turmeric was given and the results were amazing. Tumor size was reduced by just talking daily curcumin supplements. This was a result of the suppressive effects of turmeric on angiogenesis or the formation of blood vessels to supply cancer tumors.
Turmeric Effects On Vascular Epithelial Growth Factors
Studies were made on HRT, breast cancer and turmeric. HRT or hormone replacement therapy uses synthetic progestin, which is given to women to reduce the ill effects of menopause. This treatment is effective in reducing the discomforts of menopause but may also increase the risk of breast cancer development and other progestin-accelerated tumors. In the body, synthetic progestin promotes VEGF (vascular epithelial growth factors) function. VEGF promotes blood vessel formation around cancer tumors and supports cancer growth.
Turmeric has an inhibitory effect on vascular epithelial growth factor (VEGF). This growth factor is essential in the proliferation of cancer cells. In order for any cell in the body (whether normal or cancerous) to grow and reproduce, they need adequate blood supply. Blood brings the nutrients and oxygen every cell needs to live. This is most essential for cancer cells, as they need more blood supply than any other normal cell in the body. Because they receive more blood supply than normal cells, cancer cells rapidly grow and eventually overrun the normal cells in the body. Vascular epithelial growth factors are among the compounds that promote the formation of blood supply to the cancer cells. One unique ability of cancer cells and vascular epithelial growth factors is that when they work together, the growth factor’s action is heightened. It accelerates blood vessel formation so that the cancer cells will have lots of blood supply faster than normal healthy cells receive.
Turmeric inhibits the function of this growth factor. By blocking its action, the cancer cells will no longer have enough blood vessels that will bring them adequate blood supply they need in order to survive and multiply. This effect has been demonstrated in studies involving specifically progestin-accelerated tumors.
Turmeric Can Re-Activate Tumor Suppressor Gene
Like most other illnesses, the body has compounds that helps it fight cancer formation and development. These compounds are controlled by a tumor suppressor gene. Turmeric can activate this gene to improve the body’s defense against cancer formation.
Other ways that turmeric acts to prevent or treat cancer include the following:
1. Metastases inhibition
Turmeric can inhibit metastases, or the spread of cancer in the body. This effect was seen in a study that showed the inhibitory effect of turmeric on metastasis or spread of breast and prostate cancer. Turmeric specifically inhibits the release of CXCl1 and CXCL2. These chemical messengers promote inflammation and support metastases. Blocking these does not give cancer cells enough chances to metastasize. 8,9
2. Prevents cancer stem cells from re-growing
This is a very vital step towards cancer treatment. Stem cells are found deep inside cancer tumors, driving cancer growth. Some treatments only target the cancer cells in the outer region of tumors. If the stem cells at the core of the tumor are left untouched, these stem cells can re-grow, bringing back cancer. Turmeric inhibits this and can effectively prevent cancer from coming back.
3. Improves the action of some anti-cancer drugs while reducing their negative effects on healthy cells
Research has proven that taking turmeric while taking certain anti-cancer drugs like 5-FU reduces the toxic effects on healthy cells while its cancer-fighting effects are enhanced. Turmeric has also been proven to reduce systemic inflammation that often results from cancer medications and treatments. It also lessens the oxidative stress resulting from use of anti-cancer medication.
4. Induces apoptosis in cancer cells
Apoptosis is cell death. Turmeric, along with chokeberry, promotes apoptosis in cancer cell. This promotes reduced rate of cancer growth. This also inhibits metastases. This effect has been demonstrated in studies involving brain tumors.
TAKING CURCUMIN (TURMERIC) FOR CANCER BENEFITS
Supplementation is most recommended if aiming to get the anti-cancer benefits of turmeric. Adding the herb to food is not enough to deliver concentrations high enough to initiate all the discussed pathways and actions.
Supplements contain a good concentration of curcumin. However, curcumin in its pure form is not easily absorbed by the body. But if it is combined with another compound such as piperine, absorption is enhanced. Piperine is an active compound found in peppers. Piperine can increase curcumin absorption by as much as 200%.
Experts from the American Cancer Society recommend mixing turmeric supplements to 1 teaspoon of olive oil and then sprinkle some black pepper. This mixture improves absorption of curcumin in the body. Some people swallow whole black peppercorns along with curcumin/turmeric supplements to enhance absorption.
Curcumin is a fat-soluble compound. Taking them with fatty meals also enhance their absorption.
Note that turmeric is NOT a cure for cancer. What it does is to help with the various steps involved in cancer. It interferes with some of the steps that promote cancer growth and metastasis. It also activates genes and enzymes that further help in reducing cancer growth. It is not a cure-all despite the many functions it plays in cancer cure and prevention.