Sperling Prostate Center

Preventing Prostate Cancer and the Spices of Life

UPDATE: 12/19/2020
Originally published 1/3/2018

In January, 2018 we posted a blog on several spices that have an observed anti-cancer affect when laboratory-tested on cancer cells or animals. This update focuses on turmeric and a compound derived from it, curcumin. Curcumin has been shown “… to possess anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antioxidant, wound-healing, and antimicrobial activities.”[i] Curcumin has been shown to reduce prostate inflammation, a known precursor for prostate cancer (PCa), thus having a possible role in preventing PCa. In fact, “… it has also shown activity against cancer through multiple mechanisms, including inhibition of initiation, progression, invasion and metastasis of cancer cells.”[ii] One human clinical trial found that a combination of curcumin and soy isoflavones lowered PSA in men with suspiciously high PSA but whose prostate biopsies were negative for PCa.[iii]

However, when extracted from turmeric, curcumin is not highly available for the body to take it up efficiently in order to get the most benefit. For years, researchers have been formulating curcumin with other substances in order to make it more absorbable. Here’s an easy way to increase the body’s access to curcumin: add turmeric, the spice which is naturally abundant in curcumin, to recipes. Cooking can increase curcumin’s bioavailability. Check out 4 ways in which cooking with turmeric helps get curcumin into your system naturally. Don’t know any delicious turmeric recipes? Here are 63 recipes to get you started on the path of reducing your PCa chances.


In medieval times, the art of alchemy involved mixtures and potions that were concocted in hopes of finding a way to turn ordinary metal into gold. While that turned out to be a wild goose chase, alchemists also tinkered with combining natural ingredients with a goal of creating cures for disease. Thanks to today’s science, we now know that alchemists were on the right track when they sought healing mixtures. In fact, research in both biology and chemistry takes us full circle with applying natural substances, namely spices, to preventing and curing prostate cancer.

The journal Nutrients recently published a review article by a team of Chinese researchers.[i] The article, “Spices for Prevention and Treatment of Cancers,” not only provides food for clinical thought but is also likely to make your mouth water if you love Middle Eastern, African and Asian cuisines. Many dishes from these cultures contain ingredients like turmeric, curcumin, black cumin, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, saffron, and red chili pepper. They also discuss garlic and other herbs and spices that have demonstrated effects that can manage cancer. (Just to be clear, spices are generally from roots, bark and seeds and usually come in ground up forms; herbs come from plant leaves and are usually purchased as dried leaves or flakes.) Here is some information from the article, which cites many laboratory studies, that specifically applies to prostate cancer (PCa):

  1. Curcumin has properties shown to suppress tumor growth and delay the onset of castration-resistant prostate cancer. It also seems to inhibit the growth of at least one PCa cell line.
  2. Ginger seems to have several effects on prostate cancer cells, including interfering with their ability to reproduce or to progress, and possibly playing a role in them dying off.
  3. Saffron is composed of compounds that work against PCa proliferation and spread, thereby reducing the risk of metastasis.
  4. Black pepper contains piperine, which exhibits antitumor activity in several cancers. It may help reduce PCa proliferation and interfere with the cancer’s cell cycle. In one study of PCa patients with advanced disease, piperine seemed to amplify the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug docetaxel.
  5. Red chili pepper has a compound called capsaicin that gives peppers their burning sensation. In fact, it is a powerful irritant (as anyone knows who’s ever gotten the pepper juice in their eyes). Capsaicin has shown several antitumor properties in lung and breast cancers, and is being studied with other types of cancer. For PCa, animal studies demonstrated that less aggressive tumors developed in animals treated with capsaicin, which also seemed to lead to less tumor growth and spread.

These are just a few examples from the article. They are taken from research done with mice, or with PCa cells in lab containers. However, human clinical studies have been done and are in progress. In the meantime, adding many of the exotic flavors from spices mentioned in the article will not only enhance your mealtime adventures but will also enliven your body’s “alchemy” in beneficial, anticancer ways.

In addition to our prostate cancer detection, diagnosis and image-guided treatment services, the Sperling Prostate Center is committed to men’s health on all levels. We support healthy lifestyle choices, including diet, supplements, exercise, and stress management, and we recognize that heart-healthy equals prostate-healthy.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Gupta SC, Patchva S, Aggarwal BB. Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. AAPS J. 2013 Jan; 15(1): 195–218.
[ii] Feng t, Wei Y, Lee RJ, Zhao L. Liposomal curcumin and its application in cancer. Int J Nanomedicine. 2017; 12: 6027–6044.
[iii] Ide H, Tokiwa S, Sakamaki K, Nishio K, Isotani S, Muto S, et al. Combined inhibitory effects of soy isoflavones and curcumin on the production of prostate-specific antigen. Prostate. 2010;70(10):1127–1133.
[iv] Zheng J, Zhou Y, Li Y, Xu DP et al. Spices for the prevention and treatment of cancers. Nutrients. 2016 Aug 12;8(8). pii: E495. doi: 10.3390/nu8080495.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

You may also be interested in...

WordPress Image Lightbox