A compound found in turmeric can protect the skin from burns and blisters that are a hazard of radiotherapy. Curcumin is the substance that gives turmeric, an ingredient of curries, its distinctive yellow colour. It is long been known for its health benefits, and recent research suggests it may fight cancer by cutting off the blood supply to a tumour.
Now researchers at the University of Texas uncover that curcumin has another potential benefit. Working with mice, they have found that curcumin can protect the skin from the damaging blisters and burns that develop radiotherapy. A group of mice were given various doses of the compound and then exposed to a dose of radiation. Those given the higher doses had far fewer burns or blisters. They also developed new cells in the area of tumour, which might be expected to make the therapy more effective. It is too early to know if this would work in humans, but curcumin could turn out to be a safe and natural way of protecting the skin from radiotherapy.