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    Study Finds Main Ingredient in Turmeric Reverses Effects of BPA

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    San Francisco, December 17, 2012—Researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute (CPMCRI, a Sutter Health affiliate) report that low doses of curcumin, the main ingredient in the spice turmeric, reverses many of the major changes caused by exposure to bisphenol-A, also known as BPA. BPA exposure has long been thought to be a risk factor for developing breast cancer and other developmental changes, including fetal abnormalities and possibly male cancers such as prostate cancer. A report on the study is available at new window

    “This is the first study offering promise that the effects of BPA can be reversed in people,” said Dr. Shanaz Dairkee, Ph.D., lead author on the study. “If you want to understand how to prevent cancer, you’ve got to look at cells before they become cancerous – we looked at these benign cells and discovered that curcumin protected them from the effects of BPA.”

    Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used to make many consumer goods, including plastic food containers, bottles and thermal paper used for cash register receipts. Studies have found that more than 90 percent of North Americans test positive for recent exposure to BPA, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1960’s as an indirect food additive.

    The study compared the effects of BPA alone and BPA with curcumin exposure in non-malignant human breast cells. Cells were exposed to BPA right after they were obtained from volunteers. The cells exposed to BPA grew much faster — a hallmark of cancer. More importantly, one of the six cell samples continued accelerated growth for a month after the BPA was removed.

    “The worrisome thing is that we’ve shown BPA’s effects can last even after the BPA is gone,” added Dr. William H. Goodson, a specialist in breast cancer and co-investigator on the study. “Although BPA is usually rapidly cleared from the body, over 90 percent of Americans and Canadians are exposed to BPA on a daily basis. This means that some of the people being exposed to BPA on a regular basis will have cells with accelerated growth because of the BPA – and accelerated cell growth is a step toward cancer.”

    The CPMCRI researchers found that BPA disrupts cell control checkpoints that normally limit uncontrolled cell growth and limit tumor formation by causing damaged cells to die through a process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is the common pathway for cancer cell death from chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone-based cancer therapies. Curcumin was tested because, based on other research, it was expected to restore normal function of these checkpoints to control growth and cause abnormal cells to die, in this case, before they can become cancer.

    Co-authors on this study are Gloria Luciani-Torres, Ph.D., Dan Moore, Ph.D., and William Goodson, M.D., all of CPMC. This research was supported by a Special Research Initiative of the California Breast Cancer Research Program (grant award 17UB-8702), and by donations to Environmental Research at the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation.


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    At San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center we deliver personal, hands-on care to every single patient, every single day. As one of California’s largest private, community-based, not-for-profit, teaching medical centers, we research the most up-to-date treatments, hire the most qualified individuals, and practice the most modern, innovative medicine available. We deliver the highest quality expert care, with kindness and compassion, in acute, post-acute and outpatient services, as well as preventive and complementary medicine. We also provide disease counseling, family support and wellness treatments. Throughout the entire organization, every member of the CPMC team is committed to giving our patients the individual, hands-on attention they deserve. Every hand plays a part, and every hand has the power to change a life.

    The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute creates an active partnership between clinicians and researchers, merging research institute interests with the needs of the medical center. When associated with a research program, physicians have knowledge and access to more effective treatments and diagnostic technologies.