Curcumin May Prevent Nicotine-Related Head and Neck Cancers

Curcumin, the organic compound that gives curry it's yellow color, may inhibit the adverse effects of tobacco use in patients with head and neck cancer who continue to smoke. The study was presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting in San Diego.

During the study, researchers examined the effects of curcumin on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma growths. The study used an in vitro model of a variety of head and neck cancer cell types. To simulate the clinical situation, the cancer cells were pre-treated with curcumin and then nicotine was introduced. The results of the study found that curcumin was able to block nicotine from activating cancer causing cells.

Each year, there are roughly 40,000 new cases of head and neck cancers and 13,000 resulting deaths in the U.S. and 500,000 new cases worldwide. Recurrence of these cancers is high because many patients persist in smoking even after successful treatment. Also, former smokers often use nicotine replacement therapy as an aid for quitting the habit.

Though nicotine alone is not considered to be carcinogenic, studies have found it to encourage the cancer-forming process. The researchers sought a safe, bioactive food compound that could be used not only as a chemopreventive agent, but could also block nicotine’s harmful effects. The results may aid researchers in discovering additional therapies for cancer prevention and treatment.


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