COLUMBUS, OHIO. Oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the 7th leading cancer in the United States. Its most likely causes are smoking and alcohol consumption. Researchers at Ohio State University now report that curcumin, a component of the natural spice turmeric, is highly effective in not only preventing, but also in halting oral SCC.
Their experiment involved the exposure of oral SCC cells to curcumin in a culture medium and the exposure of normal oral tissue to the tobacco-associated carcinogenic agent, benzo(alpha)pyrene with and without the presence of curcumin. The researchers found that curcumin in concentrations greater than 25 micromol killed existing oral SCC cells and stopped the growth of cancer. They also found that healthy oral tissue exposed to benzo(alpha)pyrene did not turn cancerous when pretreated with curcumin. They also noted that curcumin was highly effective in conserving intracellular levels of glutathione, the body's main endogenous antioxidant.
The researchers conclude that, "the use of curcumin as an oral cavity chemopreventive agent could be
clinically significant". They suggest that curcumin could be incorporated into cigarette and smokeless
tobacco formulations or could be used by smokers in the form of curcumin-containing lozenges as a means
of preventing or treating oral SCC.