Oral curcumin does not significantly reduce radiation dermatitis severity (RDS) in patients with cancer who receive radiation therapy (RT) compared with placebo, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Radiation dermatitis is one of the most frequently occurring adverse events among patients with cancer undergoing ionizing RT, and negatively impacts quality of life and may interrupt treatment. Evidence from previous studies have suggested that oral curcumin — a component of turmeric — may reduce RDS at the end of radiation therapy.

For this phase 2 study, researchers randomly assigned 686 patients with breast cancer to placebo or curcumin 500 mg 3 times a day throughout the course of RT and for 1 week after completion. Patients underwent assessment at baseline, weekly after the fifth RT session, at the end of RT, and 1 week after completing RT. Additionally, the RDS scale was utilized to determine the clinical skin rating.

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Results demonstrated that curcumin did not reduce RDS by the end of RT compared with placebo (B [95% CI] = 0.44 [–0.101, 0.188], P =.552), and fewer patients treated with curcumin with RDS score higher than 3 trended towards reduced severity (7.4% vs 12.9%; P =.082).

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No statistically significant differences were observed in symptom, pain, and quality of life between the study arms.

Oral curcumin did not improve RDS among patients who receive RT, and the authors concluded that “[a]n objective measure for radiation dermatitis severity and further exploration for an effective treatment for radiation dermatitis is warranted.”


Wolf JR, Heckler CE, Guido JJ, et al. Oral curcumin for radiation dermatitis: a URCC NCORP study of 686 breast cancer patients [published online December 1, 2017]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-3957-4