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What Is the Relationship Between Capsaicin and Cancer?

Peppers, a source of capsaicin.
Capsaicin has been used in cancer treatment studies, although the results are conflicting.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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The exact connection between capsaicin and cancer is widely debated since studies have shown some conflicting results. Some research has indicated that capsaicin, a common substance in chili peppers, may increase the risk of skin cancer. Many other studies have shown that capsaicin can be a powerful cancer fighter and that many types of cancer cells actually destroy themselves when the substance is applied. Most research, including that supported by many cancer research centers, are supportive of the use of capsaicin.

Capsaicin and cancer treatment studies have primarily linked the use of this substance to the treatment of prostate cancer, although liver cancer and some others may also be halted with treatment. It is typically not enough to just eat more chili peppers when it comes to cancer treatment. High doses of the substance must be taken to have an impact large enough to treat disease once cancer has already been diagnosed. Even with some promising links between capsaicin and cancer treatment, newly diagnosed cancer patients should speak with a doctor to determine the right course of treatment to use.

Some natural health practitioners recommend taking capsaicin as part of cancer treatment. Capsaicin or cayenne pepper supplements can be purchased from most health food stores or online from specialty retailers. Since they also may provide a wide range of other health benefits, there is typically no harm in taking capsaicin pills as part of one's daily supplements.

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Capsaicin is currently not recommended by most mainstream medical establishments to use as a cancer treatment, although researchers are working to find a way to develop medications containing the substance or to mimic its results. Many natural health practitioners claim that the reason medical experts are not promoting capsaicin is because it is relatively low priced and would not earn drug companies any money. Others argue that it would be too hard to consume enough of the substance through supplements alone. Since so little is known about long-term use of capsaicin in high doses, it is best to avoid taking excessive amounts unless under the supervision of a doctor or holistic medical practitioner.

There are some conflicting studies regarding the link between capsaicin and cancer. Although most have been positive, some studies have shown that the substance may increase the risk for skin cancer. Other research has conflicted with these findings and have shown no link between the two. Capsaicin is generally considered safe for use, as it has also been shown beneficial in boosting metabolism and preventing certain brain disorders in many studies. Consumers are encouraged to check with a health care professional before taking any drugs or supplements.

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