Carcinogenesis encompasses 3 closely associated stages: initiation, progression, and promotion. Phytochemicals are nonnutritive components of plants that are currently being studied in chemoprevention of various diseases for their pleiotropic effects and nontoxicity. Cancer chemoprevention involves the use of either natural or synthetic chemicals to prevent the initiation, promotion, or progression of cancer. Curcumin is the active constituent of turmeric, which is widely used as a spice in Indian cooking. It has been shown to posses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor properties. Curcumin has also been shown to be beneficial in all 3 stages of carcinogenesis. Much of its beneficial effect is found to be due to its inhibition of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) and subsequent inhibition of proinflammatory pathways. This review summarizes the inhibition of NF-kappaB by curcumin and describes the recently identified molecular targets of curcumin. It is hoped that continued research will lead to development of curcumin as an anticancer agent.
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