Curcumin has been shown in the laboratory to have profound and diverse effects on breast cancer carcinogenesis, proliferation and metastasis. Furthermore, these anticancer actions have been observed against several types of breast cancer, including estrogen receptor positive and progesterone receptor positive (ER+/PR+), ER negative and PR negative (ER-/PR-), and HER2/neu overexpressing cell lines. Some degree of selectivity for cancer cells also has been observed.
Adding curcumin to chemotherapy regimes that include Taxol (paclitaxel), Adriamycin(doxorubicin), or 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) has been shown to enhance their cytotoxicity. Curcumin might also protect the brain from chemotherapy, thereby possibly reducing chemo brain. On the other hand, supplementation with curcumin has been shown to interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifen treatment.
Curcumin has been shown to be an iron and copper chelator, which may be helpful for some women (since high stores of copper or iron can contribute to breast cancer risk), but could increase risk of anemia in women with marginal levels, especially those undergoing chemotherapy.
Curcumin has been found in mouse models to effectively protect skin from radiation damage, while at the same time sensitizing breast cancer cells to radiation and making them more susceptible to its effects. Therefore, it appears that adding turmeric to the diet during radiation treatment does not lessen the radiation’s effectiveness and could be beneficial. Also, there is some evidence that turmeric could help protect normal breast cells from radiation-induced cancer (e.g., when radiation is used to treat other cancers).