Spices may boost breast health

December 11, 2009

Researchers from the University of Michigan report that curcumin found in turmeric, and piperine found in black peppers, decreased the risk of breast cancer formation by stopping the growth of the stem cells that spawn the tumours while having no effect on normal healthy cells. The researchers used doses equivalent to 20 times to potency of what could be consumed through the diet however, such potencies are possible from dietary supplements, said the researchers.

If we can limit the number of stem cells, we can limit the number of cells with potential to form tumours, explained lead author Madhuri Kakarala. Furthermore, the researchers found that normal, non-cancerous stem cells were unaffected by the compounds, which appeared to selectively target the cancer stem cells. This shows that these compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue, said Kakarala Women at high risk of breast cancer right now can choose to take the drugs tamoxifen or raloxifene for prevention, but most women won't take these drugs because there is too much toxicity. The concept that dietary compounds can help is attractive, and curcumin and piperine appear to have very low toxicity. The study is published online ahead of print in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment .