Curry Spice Takes Burn Out of Radiation

Spice May Reduce Irritation After Cancer Treatment

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 10, 2002 -- A meal at an Indian restaurant might be a spicy, yet soothing pre-treatment prescription for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. New research suggests that a spice found in curries can help reduce the irritation commonly caused by radiation.

The study showed that curcumin, the substance in turmeric that gives it and the dishes it flavors a characteristic yellow color, is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. It works in ways similar to the popular Cox-2 inhibiting drugs, including aspirin and Celebrex.

Radiation not only kills cancer cells, but it can also increase the production of chemicals that can cause skin damage, such as sunburn-like rashes or blisters. But researchers found that mice given a daily dose of curcumin for five days before exposure to radiation developed far fewer blisters or burns than mice that didn't get the spice treatment.

"This is significant because skin damage is a real problem for patients undergoing radiation to treat their tumors. If a non-toxic, natural substance can help prevent this damage and enhance the effectiveness of our radiation, that's a winning situation," says study author Paul Okunieff, MD, chief of radiation oncology at the Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, in a news release.

Okunieff presented the study this week at the 44th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in New Orleans.

Although the study authors say further research is needed in humans to confirm these findings, cancer patients should consider eating curried foods during their radiation treatment. -->

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