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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Curry 'may treat radiation burns'
curries
Turmeric is the crucial ingredient
A spicy ingredient of many curries may be an effective treatment for radiation burns, according to a study.

Researchers in the United States believe it may prevent skin blistering and redness associated with cancer radiation therapy.

The compound, which gives the spice turmeric its yellow colour, was effective in tests on mice.


If a non-toxic, natural substance can help prevent this damage and enhance the effectiveness of our radiation, that's a winning situation

Dr Paul Okunieff

Turmeric is found in everything from mild Kormas to the hottest Vindaloos. The crucial chemical - curcumin - has long been used as a traditional medicine.

It is now being investigated for the treatment of colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease as well as burns.

In the latest study, a team at the University of Rochester's Wilmot Cancer Center tested the ingredient on 200 mice.

Mice given curcumin had fewer blisters and burns after a single dose of radiation, said Dr Ivan Ding, who helped carry out the study.

"If a non-toxic, natural substance can help prevent this damage and enhance the effectiveness of our radiation, that's a winning situation," said team leader Dr Paul Okunieff, chief of radiation oncology at the university.

'Encouraging'

The authors of the US study warn that curcumin must be tested in other animals, and then in people, before it is accepted as valid.

The spice is thought to work as an anti-inflammatory agent. It is said to have a number of other health benefits, such as aiding digestion and helping fight infection.

Professor Andy Gescher of the department of Oncology at Leicester University, UK, is part of a team testing curcumin capsules on colon cancer sufferers.

He believes there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that members of the Asian community in the city may be better able to resist colon cancer because they use the spice in cooking.

The results of the US study were "very encouraging", he said.

"It's not surprising that agents like curcumin have beneficial effects in a large number of areas of health," he told BBC News Online.

See also:

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