Dear Dr. Roach: Is there any evidence that taking turmeric prevents cancer? I have a friend who is convinced that it does. M.S.
Answer: There are hundreds of cancers, some of which we can treat and a few of which we can prevent. Turmeric cannot, unfortunately, prevent all cancers.
There are reasons to think that turmeric may have benefits. Some studies have suggested benefit in certain types of cancers, including leukemias and colon and prostate cancers, but I have to emphasize that turmeric (or its active substance, curcumin) is not, by itself, a completely effective preventive or treatment for cancer. Even people taking large amounts of turmeric and with an outstanding diet can get cancer. Turmeric may help other treatments (chemotherapy, radiation) work better; it may help people feel better so they can tolerate more treatment; and it has hormone-like effects that may be useful for treating some cancers and possibly harmful when treating others.