Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hot peppers linked to cancer cell growth

This may be shocking to Koreans who consider red peppers as part of their daily dietary intake not just for health reasons and for the taste but also for its cultural significance in Korean cuisine.

Red pepper flakes and pastes have created a huge boom in East Asia for their effect in dissolving fat and leading to possible weight loss. However, those who eat them habitually for health or diet’s sake may have to think twice — a group of international researchers claim that capsaicin in the pepper may be linked to skin cancer.

According to Prof. Lee Ki-won of Konkuk University and fellow scientists at Seoul National University and the University of Minnesota, the substance has the ability to act as a carcinogen promoter, especially at the stage when a tumor is being formed.

The researchers applied capsaicin, the pungent substance that makes peppers hot, onto the skin of mice regularly for a set period of time, and found that the regular application made them more susceptible to skin cancer, with some of them developing larger tumors than others.

They also concluded that capsaicin has the potential to induce inflammation that could possibly affect cancer development.

However, the researchers said that capsaicin did not cause skin cancer in all the animals tested.

Capsaicin is widely consumed worldwide in foods containing chili peppers and others. Many use it as topical cream to treat pain.

Ann Bode, one of the researchers, said to multiple press outlets that the study results should raise concern that an over-the-counter pain reliever could increase skin cancer risks.

The ground-breaking finding was published as the cover story of the “Cancer Research” magazine’s September edition, but is expected to trigger fresh controversy over the substance.

Some studies in the past suggested that capsaicin induces cell deaths in cancer cells when administered to a cancer patient.

Some reports have claimed that the substance promotes stomach and liver cancer and also induced duodenal adenocarcinoma in mice. It is also said to enhance the metastasis of breast cancer cells by reducing the expression of relevant genes.

Prof. Lee of the Konkuk University said, “It is true that chili peppers are good for the body. The study will evolve into which part of the food does good and which doesn’t.”

By Bae Ji-sook (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/09/117_72638.html)

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