Turmeric, a yellow spice common in Indian and Asian cooking, may have a therapeutic role in treating oral cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), according to new research in the journal ecancermedicalscience (April 23, 2015).
One of turmeric's key active ingredients -- an antioxidant called curcumin -- appears to suppress the activity of HPV, an international research team has found. Studies show that HPV is associated with the development of cervical and oral cancers.
Turmeric has antiviral and anticancer properties, according to study author Alok Mishra, PhD, a faculty and research associate at the Winship Cancer Institute at the Emory University School of Medicine. He noted that HPV-related oral cancers are increasing.
The researchers first noticed the effect of curcumin on HPV and cervical cancer cells in 2005. The antioxidant slowed the expression of HPV, which suggested that curcumin could control HPV infections. The new study findings indicate that curcumin reduces the expression of HPV in infected oral cancer cells by down regulating the levels of cellular transcription factors AP-1 and NF-kB.
Using turmeric and other antioxidants may be good for health in general and HPV-related oral cancers in particular, Mishra said.