Research from America has discovered that curcumin – the compound in curry that creates the yellow pigment – can help to inhibit the size and growth of breast cancer.
Scientists at the University of Louisville, Kentucky found that the spice shrinks breast cancer tumours in mice by up to a third, and can also slow the rate of cell reproduction.
This research – published in the Cancer Prevention Research journal – could pave the way for revolutionary new treatment to fend off a disease that kills around 12,000 women and 80 men every year in the UK.
However, simply eating more curry is ineffective as the spice is broken down in the stomach during the digestive process.
Researchers conducting the study found that mice given curry diets did not see any tumour size reduction or slowed growth, while the mice that were fed miniature dissolving capsules containing 200mg of curcumin did.
The capsules ensure that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities of curcumin can enter the bloodstream and target breast cancer cells. The spice is thought to work by blocking hormones that feed the growth of the tumours.
Other teams of researchers are looking at whether injecting curcumin into tumours could help women beat breast cancer, while Cancer Research UK is currently finding a trial exploring the effects of curcumin on bowel cancer tumours, and whether or not it will boost chemotherapy.
The published results are expected next year.