How Could Turmeric Prevent or Treat Prostate Cancer?

Promising research supports turmeric use for prostate cancer prevention

Turmeric is an Indian spice used for centuries in cooking. Now research suggests that it may help prevent or treat prostate cancer. Research has also shown that turmeric may help a wide variety of health conditions from acne to arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric roots and ground powder on a wooden spoon and inside a white bowl on a wooden table
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How Turmeric May Work

The popular herbal medicine contains the antioxidant curcumin, a curcuminoid that is responsible for turmeric’s yellow color and prevents inflammation by blocking molecules that cause it. Although the medicinal use of turmeric is not fully understood, the spice Is commonly used in Asian medicine to treat a variety of illnesses.

Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, protects the body in two ways: 

  • Enhancing the activity of an important detoxifying enzyme
  • Beutralizing molecules that cause DNA damage, such as free radicals

Studies of turmeric in rats have shown the spice to be vital in the prevention of kidney damage from toxins. Additional studies have shown that it may also have protective effects against colon, stomach, and skin cancer by stopping the replication of tumor cells in the lab. The effect in the human body is unknown. 

Although research on turmeric as an anti-cancer supplement has been promising, especially in preventing and limiting the spread of prostate cancer, recent experiments suggest that it may interfere with the activity of some chemotherapy drugs.

Therefore, questions remain about its overall efficacy and clinical relevance as an adjunct to traditional cancer treatments.

Turmeric should not be used in lieu of chemotherapy or other traditional cancer treatments. So far there is not enough evidence to recommend turmeric for preventing or treating cancer, but research is ongoing. Delaying or avoiding treatment may result in poorer outcomes.

Research

Several studies have looked into whether curcumin could be a cancer treatment with some promising results.

A 2015 study discovered that curcumin can restrict several cell-signaling pathways, thereby weakening tumor cell production. A second study found that curcumin may stop cancer-associated fibroblasts, connective tissue cells that hold malignant tumor cells together and signal others to join.

A third study found that combining curcumin and alpha-tomatine, which is found in tomatoes, helped stop the growth of cancer and may even speed up the death of cancer cells.

Another 2013 international laboratory study on bowel cancer cells looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment might be better than chemotherapy alone.

A problem highlighted by a number of review studies is that curcumin does not get absorbed easily. This makes it work less well as a treatment. Researchers are looking at ways of overcoming this problem.

More clinical human trials are needed before we know how well it works as a treatment for cancer.

How to Use Turmeric

Turmeric is usually found as a fine powder but is also available as a fluid extract, oil, or supplement. Many people enjoy turmeric as a tea with nutmeg and cinnamon. One should aim for 1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons (500 to 1500 milligrams of curcuminoid) to maximize efficacy while avoiding side effects.

Turmeric can also be used to treat other health conditions such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or psoriasis and has been proven effective with only 1/2 teaspoon serving per day.

Turmeric can be added to smoothies and oats as a superfood for men’s health. Some research has also found that combining turmeric with certain vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, turnips, and cabbage can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer, as well as greatly reduce the growth of tumors.

Before Taking

Consult your doctor prior to adding any supplement to your daily medication regimen, especially if you are being treated for prostate cancer or any other medical condition.

If you are already undergoing prostate cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy, it is crucial that you first complete your course of treatment before staring turmeric. 

It is important to keep an updated medication list—with the amount and frequency taken—to send it to your doctor. Include reported side effects if they occur. If you plan to undergo surgery, tell your surgeon as turmeric may work like a blood thinner.

Side Effects

You may experience side effects if turmeric is taken in large doses. The most common side effects are stomach pain and inflammation of the skin if you come into contact with turmeric. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to turmeric, including rash, swelling, and redness if it touches the skin.  

Medical professionals caution patients with gastrointestinal disorders and those predisposed to kidney stone formation from taking turmeric supplements without first consulting their doctor.

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

While some research has shown that turmeric can minimize the spread and even kill malignant prostate cancer cells, the research has been inconclusive on whether turmeric should be used as a stand-alone product for those with low grade cancers.

If left untreated, prostate cancer can be deadly. Prostate cancer is also the second most lethal cancer in men. Prostate health is important for all men as 1 in 5 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

There is a growing body of research that supports evidence-based holistic measures such as turmeric supplementation for a wide variety of ailments, but medical professionals ardently encourage older men who experience symptoms of urgency, frequent urination, and weak or interrupted urine streams to contact their doctors immediately.

A history and physical exam (including a digital rectal exam), imaging, a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) and a biopsy can be used to diagnose prostate cancer. 

Traditional prostate cancer therapies include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiopharmaceutical therapy and bisphosphonate therapy for prostate cancer that’s spread to the bone
  • Hormone therapy that removes or blocks hormones and stops cancer cell growth
  • Biologic therapy, which boosts, guides, or restores the body’s natural cancer-fighting defenses
  • Radical prostatectomy to remove the prostate
  • Lymphadenectomy to remove pelvic lymph nodes, and
  • Surgery to remove prostate tissue
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