Curry and cancer

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I often get calls or e-mails from friends wondering about natural cures for cancer that they have read in the news or heard about from other friends or family. And while some are hoaxes, there are also some that are backed by exciting research. Many natural ingredients are the basis for chemotherapies that we use today. The call I got recently was about curry, more specifically turmeric, a spice in curry that provides that vibrant yellow color. Last week the British Journal of Cancer published a study that showed curcumin (a molecule in turmeric) began to kill esophageal cancer cells within 24 hours after exposure in lab tests. Although these findings are based only on laboratory results and not human trials, they are part of a growing body of research on curcumin's effect on cancer cells. Other in vitro and animal studies have shown similar cancer-fighting properties, including effects on colon cancer and promyelocytic leukemia cells. Currently, there are over a dozen clinical trials examining curcumin as a treatment alone or combined with other therapies. However, like other antioxidants, turmeric seems to counteract the effects of some chemotherapies. Patients on Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide) are advised to limit their intake of turmeric due to the possibility of interference. Also, there are questions regarding the dosage of curcumin, as well as its weakened effect after ingestion.So before you load up on curry, ask your doctor or nurse if it hinders any medications you are on. And if you get a green light, enjoy this tasty, versatile spice, and hopefully we'll hear more about its cancer-fighting abilities through these latest clinical trials. It may not be a cure for cancer, but it is certainly a wonderful addition to any pantry.