Although many blog posts link the low instances of colon cancer in India to Indian culinary choices, the reason is likely far more complex than this simple explanation. However, no matter how complicated the reasoning behind these low colon cancer rates, we should at least thank this simple reduction of evidence for the increased scientific interest in turmeric. This interest has led to a huge explosion of study into the health benefits associated with turmeric and the compound called curcumin. These days, the research is demonstrating some pretty exciting results, for example curcumin has been found to be an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and a liver protectant.
The most explosive research has been into the use of turmeric curcumin for its anti-tumor and anticancer potential. While it’s always important to question the claims of herbal remedies claiming to be anti-cancer, in the case of turmeric, even a quick review of the literature demonstrates some real potential.
Notes on Turmeric
Turmeric has long been a dietary and medicinal staple within Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha cultures. The main compound sought after in turmeric is called curcumin, which was first scientifically identified in 1815, and later crystallized in 1870. If you are not familiar with turmeric as either a spice or as a medicine, it is bright orange or yellow in color and has a mild peppery taste. It is used throughout Indian cooking, but has increasingly been adopted by the health and wellness community worldwide, being incorporated into supplements, smoothies, and lattes as people strive to reap its multiple turmeric benefits. Due to this surge in popularity, it can now be found in spice aisles and bulk sections around the globe. It can also be found in more powerful extracts in health food stores. Look for fresh, organic turmeric whenever possible, and be careful when handling as it has a tendency to dye everything it touches a bright shade of mustard.
A Review of Turmeric and Colon Cancer Research
Researchers have been examining the various ways through which curcumin targets cancer cells for years now. This includes investigations into turmeric’s effects on cancers such as gastrointestinal, hematological, lung, brain, breast and bone. In this article, we are going to examine what the research shows in terms of turmeric’s effect on colon cancer.
Colon cancer, especially within European, North American, and Oceanic populations, represents a serious risk. Colon cancer seems to be more prominent in more developed countries, with South Korea having the highest rates. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States according to the most up-to-date predictions for 2017, which predicts over 50,000 deaths this year alone.
With these worrying statistics, looking for ways to reduce risk and prevent colon cancer is a normal response. Finding an all-natural, yet powerful preventative medicine can be difficult, but that’s where turmeric comes into play. While many herbal remedies often claim to have anticancer properties, few are as proven as those of curcumin. The currently understood methods through which curcumin has been found to inhibit cancer are reviewed below, this is the scientific low down on how to prevent colon cancer with turmeric.
- Curcumin seems to strongly inhibit proliferation of cancer cells, by inhibiting the promotion of various growth insulin growth factors. When these growth factors are reduced, or at least the function of the growth factor receptors is reduced, tumor growth suffers a similar fate.
- Some studies have shown that curcumin is capable of promoting cancer cell death by triggering activity of cancer cell death receptors, which exist on cell surfaces and are responsible for sending communications signaling cell death.
- Curcumin has so far been shown to selectively target cancer cells, instead of also targeting normal healthy cells. On top of this, because curcumin promotes cancer cell death and inhibits proliferation through multiple cell signaling pathways, researchers theorize that it therefore is safe against developing a resistance.
- It has also been found to be useful when used in conjunction with chemotherapies, because not only does it protect against chemotherapy related DNA damage, it also seems to boost the effectiveness of the treatment. This could be because curcumin is a powerful antioxidant which protects healthy cells from free radical damage. This effect was demonstrated in a study on curcumin’s effect on colon cancer published in 2005. Researchers discovered that after only one week at curcumin dosage, DNA lesions caused by free radicals had been 58 percent repaired.
- In a series of human trials using either turmeric extract or curcumin supplements on patients diagnosed with or recovering from colon cancer, there was significant evidence indicating these substances had positive effects on reducing cancer cell proliferation, limiting new tumor growth and in some cases, reducing tumor size. While more specifically directed clinical trials are required, the initial trials provide strong evidence to suggest that turmeric and its related compounds can demonstrably affect cancer cell and tumor growth.