Can Curcumin Help the Skin After Radiation?


Researchers test the theory in 30 breast cancer patients.

By Robby Gardner, Associate Editor


Researchers from the University of Rochester are investigating whether curcumin can provide skin relief after radiation therapy.

The theory has seen limited attention in animal studies, where curcumin has reduced skin damage and down-regulated inflammatory cytokines. If a significant skin benefit does takes place, this could help radiation patients, including the estimated 95% of breast cancer patients who experience dermatitis in response to radiation.

In the Rochester study, 30 patients with non-inflammatory breast cancer supplemented with 6 g of oral curcumin or placebo daily throughout their course of radiation treatment. Each patient was assessed weekly for a variety of skin health markers, including the radiation dermatitis severity (RDS) score, skin redness, pain, and a severe type of skin peeling known as moist desquamation. Moist desquamation can be so invasive that it requires the interruption of radiation therapy to allow for wound healing.

After treatment, RDS scores were significantly improved in curcumin users over placebo users. On a scale of 0 to 4, curcumin users had a mean score of 2.6 compared to 3.4 for placebo. Curcumin also appeared to reduce the risk of moist desquamation, as the condition affected 28.6% of curcumin users and 87.5% of placebo users.

Skin redness and pain did not differ significantly across the two groups, but curcumin’s success in lowering risk of dermatitis and skin peeling will warrant more research. The latest study now appears in Radiation Research.

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