Amazing Benefits of Turmeric for Breast Cancer that You Didn’t Know
Breast cancer affects millions of women worldwide every year. Here are some amazing benefits of turmeric for breast cancer that you didn’t know, and how you can make the most of them.
Facts and Figures
Around 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (approx. 12 %) are at risk of developing an invasive form of breast cancer in the course of their lifetime.Statistics dating back to 2011 show that in the U.S. alone, over 220,097 women were diagnosed with this type of cancer and 40,939 died from it.
On a global scale, 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2012. Scary? Yes, but there is hope withturmeric, experts say.
Before delving into the benefits of turmeric for breast cancer, let us dwell a little upon the disease per se. Carcinoma or tumor clusters areformed when body cells start dividing uncontrollably. If the cells forming the tumor are normal, the tumor is benign; if not, it is cancerous (carcinoma).
Usually, cancers are named after the organ where they originate from. Breast cancer is, therefore, the cancer of the mammary tissue, in which the tumor develops in the lobules or the tissue where milk is produced, or in the ducts (tissue forming the tubes transporting the milk). The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma.
The exact causes of breast cancer are yet unknown and vary on a case-by-case basis. Risk factors include old age, menopause after 55, hormone therapy, obesity, a presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and the list may continue.
However, one thing is certain, women with a history of breast or ovarian cancer present ahigher risk of developing the disease.
Symptoms may include lump/polyp under the armpits, a pea-sized formation in the breast, redness around the nipple or breast, etc.
Once a positive diagnosis is established, treatment may include radiation or chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy or a combination of other chemical-based medications.
Also known as the golden spice, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. According to an article byDongwu Liu andZhiwei Chen in the Journal of Breast Cancer, curcumin, the hallmark compound found in turmeric, has chemoprotective and anti-cancer properties, fighting certain aggressive and recurrent forms of cancer. Curcumin modifies the expression and activity of certain proteins, such as inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, transcription factors, and gene-products connected to cell proliferation. The benefits of this miraculous compound do not stop here; curcumin can also reduce the toxic effect of mitomycin C and proved to be cytotoxic to certain cell lines, the scientists explain. This means, in more laic terms that it reduces inflammation and inhibits cell overgrowth, in some cases, inducing cancer cell death.
Among the different types of cancer that curcumin is said to be particularly effective against are bowel cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer and stomach cancer.
Turmeric Benefits for Breast Cancer
Curcumin Helps Prevent the Occurrence of Breast Cancer
Regular curcumin intake can help prevent the occurrence of various forms of breast cancer by regulating the different processes that take place in the cells and maintain tissue health.
The most important ability of the cell is its ability to regulate telomerase activity. Telomerase is an enzyme that accounts for extending cell life, allowing cells to proliferate. Generally, this enzyme is absent or present in small amounts in healthy cells. However, when this balance is shattered, the cells become cancerous and start dividing uncontrollably.
Curcumin inhibits telomerase activity and prevents the cells from turning cancerous.
Apart from regulating telomerase, curcumin is also a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, preventing any damage caused by free radicals.
Turmeric Can Help Heal Breast Cancer
More recent research indicates that curcumin can not only control cell division by regulating telomerase but also stop cancer from spreading and turning into metastasis. Additionally, researchers suggest that curcumin also has the potential to heal breast cancer, regardless of its stage.
Curcumin Can Induce Apoptosis
Simply preventing cancerous cell overgrowth is not enough. They need to be killed in order to stop the diseases from spreading. This is what actually curcumin does. This superpower compound abounding in turmeric is able to induce apoptosis or programmed death in cancerous cells. By regulating pro-apoptotic factors such as Bax and P53, curcumin induces cell death in the tumor, which eventually leads to cancer healing.
Curcumin Can Regulate Signaling Pathways in Cancer Cells
Cancer cells contain plenty of dysregulation when it comes to signaling, experts say. Signaling is a vital phenomenon through which the cells control their own growth as well as the growth of the neighboring tissues.
In cancer cells, the pathway being commonly dysregulated is NF- ƙB controlling the growth, division, and inflammation of the cell. This pathway is up regulated in the cancer cells, increasing the growth of these cells.
The antidote? Curcumin. This magical compound in turmeric has been found to block the NF- ƙB pathway, which controls cell division, proliferation and eventually carcinoma’s ability to invade other tissues. It has also been proved to help control the division of neighboring tissue cells.
Curcumin Disrupts Cell Division in Cancerous Cells
The process of cell division is extremely complex and regulated. However, the absence of regulating factors in cancer cells leads to uncontrollable division.
One effective way of killing the cancer cells is by disrupting essential junctions in the cell division process which force the cells to stop dividing. An experiment showed that curcumin does exactly that by curbing spindle formation.
The formation of spindle fibers is a critical step in cell division wherein the fibers attach to the chromosomes, which leads to division. Curcumin inhibits the formation of these fibers, thereby stopping the division of cells. By doing so, curcumin has miraculous cytostatic effects on breast cancer cells.
Curcumin Prevents Metastasis in Advanced Stages of Breast Cancer
When the cancer is in an advanced stage, the cells forming the tumor start to leave their place of origin through the blood stream and relocate to other tissues. This leads to the formation of tumors in other areas of the body, a process known as metastasis. When it reaches this stage, any form of cancer is usually fatal. Therefore, it is vital to stop breast cancer cells to evolve before they start invading other tissues and forming tumors (usually in the lungs).
An experimental trial has shown that curcumin is able to stop metastasis in advanced breast cancer cells. Curcumin curbs metastasis in these cells by regulating signaling and growth along with other factors. Preventing the metastatic process, curcumin also prevents the formation of tumors in other organs.
According to a study conducted in Munich, curcumin has the ability to prevent metastasis and is well tolerated, which makes it the ideal solution for both primary and secondary cancer treatment.
Breast cancer, as well as prostate cancer, is known to cause chronic inflammatory reactions and the tumor cells produce protein cytokines (CXL1, CXL2) and proinflammatory modulators. Turmeric has the power to decrease the expression of these proteins and reduce the metastatic potential of breast and prostate cancer cells.
Curcumin Slows Down Cancer Spreading to Lungs
Not only has curcumin been shown to prevent the formation of tumors but also when breast cancer presence has been established, it can slow down cancer spreading to lungs.
A series of studies conducted on mice, which were injected with human breast cancer cells confirm it. The resulting tumors were removed afterward to stimulate mastectomy.
One group which was the control group received no treatment, and the second group was given Taxol, a cancer drug, while the third group of mice was given curcumin and the fourth and the last group was given a combined treatment of Taxol and curcumin. After five weeks, all the groups were examined.
Investigators found that breast cancer spread to the lungs in 50% of the individuals receiving curcumin-only treatment and 22% of the Taxol plus curcumin subjects. However, lung tumors developed in 95% of the individuals in the no treatment group and 75% of the individuals in the Taxol-only group. So, if you had doubts before about curcumin, this is the most eloquent example you shouldn’t anymore. But, the benefits of turmeric do not stop here.
Turmeric Alleviates Breast Cancer Symptoms
Not only is breast cancer an insidious disease, but also the symptoms associated with it are varied and involve inflammation. In most of the cases, breasts feel lumpy, hard, sensitive and painful to touch (especially in advanced stages). They may also become swollen and excessively warm.
Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent acting effectively upon the redness and the swelling, killing cancer cells and alleviating symptoms. By downregulating inflammatory cytokines CXCL-1 and 2 found in the tissues affected by cancer, this powerhouse compound in turmeric helps alleviate the pain and swelling associated with the disease.
The cytokines attract the fighter immune cells to the affected tissue, which damages the breasts and causing pain, swelling, and redness. By controlling cytokines, curcumin reduces these symptoms.
Apart from its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has also been found to support recovery from multidrug resistance (MDR). Drug resistance is one of the most common underlying problems of chemotherapy as the cancer cells being treated with chemicals develop resistance and stop responding to therapy. Numerous studies confirmed curcumin’s ability to reverse multidrug resistance in all cancerous cells, including breast cancer cells.
In this way, curcumin/turmeric can not only speed up the healing process by increasing the therapy’s chances of success, but it also speeds up the healing process.
Turmeric Prevents Recurrence of Breast Cancer Post Therapy
Treating breast cancer is a very demanding and tedious task. Yet, preventing it from recurring after therapy is twice as difficult. More often than not the tumor rebuilds itself, especially in cases where the cancer cells manage to metastasize and invade other organs.
In ER/PR positive cancers tumor recurrence can be prevented by following endocrine therapy for a long-term post treatment so that the hormonal balance is maintained and cells do not start dividing due to hormonal imbalance.
Comparatively, in HER breast cancer cases, Herceptin is being prescribed post therapy. However, despite its beneficial effects, this drug has been associated with multiple major side effects and it is still being tested to find the exact term up to which it is safe to take it.
However, In really advanced stages of cancer, it is impossible to prevent the recurrence of cancer. No therapies have been found to treat cancer and inhibit tumor recurrence.
A number of studies indicate that the curcumin element in turmeric can prevent recurrence of breast cancer tumors because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and proapoptotic properties.
Similarly, piperine, the key ingredient in black pepper is loaded with anti-cancer properties. When piperine meets curcumin, they form a super power anti-cancer antidote. So, sprinkle more than just a dash of turmeric and black pepper on your rice, pasta or add these spices to your sauces and dressings. Not only do they add flavor to your dish but also shower you with health benefits.
Turmeric Aids in Recovery Post Surgery
When nothing seems to work, surgery is the ultimate solution to treat breast cancer. Turmeric aids in recovery after surgery in many ways:
Better Pain Management
Competing with chemical-based painkillers, turmeric helps in pain management before and after surgery. Its anti-inflammatory attributes help a lot in handling swelling after surgery. Plus, there are no side effects.
Turmeric helps in pain management by reducing sensitivity to pain, thereby acting as an antinociceptive agent. In fact, multiple studies suggest that turmeric is a better painkiller than most of the chemical-based products available on the market.
Turmeric Speeds Up Wound Healing
Wound healing is vital after breast cancer surgery. Due to a number of factors including age or presence of any disorders, this process may be delayed. A number of studies prove that turmeric can assist in wound healing. Thanks to its anti-oxidative properties, the yellow spice can prevent cell damage due to reactive oxygen.
Turmeric Prevents Development of Cardiovascular and Respiratory Complications
Sometimes, cardiovascular and/or respiratory complications may arise after undergoing the mastectomy. Among the heart issues, one is exposed to post surgery are hypertension (high blood pressure) and myocardial ischemia (poor blood flow to the heart due to blood vessel blockage). Turmeric can help.
Furthermore, turmeric oil has been shown to help in respiratory issues occurring after surgery due to reduced cough reflex and accumulation of secretions in the throat.
Turmeric Wards Off Depression and Fatigue
Depression and fatigue are common symptoms after mastectomy. The main triggers are anesthesia, medication, pain, and constipation caused by various medications and an overall state of disorientation.
Scientific research suggests that turmeric can help fight post surgery depression and fatigue.
But is turmeric effective against all forms of breast cancer? As mentioned above, there are three types of breast cancer, ER/PR positive (estrogen or progesterone receptor) and HER positive and triple negative.
Despite the spice’s ability to act upon cancer cells and induce apoptosis, one question yet remains to be elucidated – can it act equally well on all three types of cancer cells? Yes.
Research has shown that curcumin has the ability to ‘discern’ between the three different types of cancer cells and exert different properties targeting each and every one of them. What it actually does is to regulate downstream signaling pathways and the uncontrolled division of these cells, dysregulated by exposure to estrogen or over-activation of estrogen receptors.
In HER positive cancer cells, curcumin regulates the expression of the HER-2 protein, which is overexpressed in this type of breast cancer, leading to uncontrolled cell division and growth. Actually, for those of you who are still in doubt whether or not to give credit to the spice for its cancer healing properties, turmeric/curcumin has been compared by experts to Herceptin, which is widely used in treating HER positive cancer.
Additionally, curcumin has been proved to regulate the growth of ER and triple negative breast cancer cells. Cancer develops in these cells due to the mutation of BRCA genes present therein. While curcumin cannot correct the BRCA mutated genes, it does kill cancer cells and prevents the growth of transformed cells in the breast.
It also regulates the EFGR signaling pathway in triple negative breast cancer cells, which is dysregulated and leads to their uncontrollable division.
Cooking with Turmeric
As turmeric is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine, breast cancer has a rare incidence in Asian countries. Here are a few ideas to cook with turmeric.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch clove
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (optional)
1 pinch fresh ground black pepper
Plenty of turmerics (1 teaspoon and increase as you like)
1-2 cups water
Raw honey (to taste)
Fresh coconut milk (to taste)
Simmer all herbs in water for 10 minutes. Remove kettle from heat.
Strain tea, allow it a few minutes to cool down at room temperature and add honey and milk.
1 ½ cups hot water
½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon dried turmeric powder (or 1-inch fresh turmeric root, peeled and chopped)
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon whole cloves or ¼ teaspoon ground
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch black pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon Goji berries
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 tablespoon Ghee or coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey (to taste)
Put all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve and enjoy.
Iced Turmeric Latte
1 cup cashew milk
4 teaspoons fresh turmeric (finely grated)
2 teaspoons palm sugar or raw sugar (finely grated) (or honey)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (finely grated)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 pinches ground cardamom
1 pinch flaky sea salt
Lemon wedge (for serving)
Whisk the milk, turmeric, palm sugar (or honey), ginger, lemon juice, cardamom, and salt in a bowl until the salt is completely dissolved. Let it sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to meld. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cloth into a cup, pressing on solids to squeeze out the juice. Add ice and enjoy.
Your Daily Dose of Turmeric
The daily recommended intake of turmeric depends on the condition and the supplements used (if any). However, as beneficial as it is for adults, it is not recommended for children. The daily dose ranges between 400 and 600 mg a day (curcumin powder).
Now that you know all the secrets of turmeric, put them into practice! Enhance your light, eat and stay healthy! More life hacks coming your way soon.