Curcumin for Radiation Dermatitis: a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial of Thirty Breast Cancer Patients


Radiat Res. 2013; 180(1):34-43.


Radiation dermatitis is the common side effect in 95% of patients receiving radiotherapy for sarcoma or various other types of cancer. Skin is susceptible to damage by ionizing radiation because it is a highly proliferative and self-renewing organ. Radiation dermatitis ranges in severity from faint or definite erythema to dry or moist desquamation and ulceration. There is no standard treatment available for radiation dermatitis with demonstrated effectiveness; the only guideline available are washing with lukewarm water and applying unscented, lanolin free, water based moisturizer.

Curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent, has been used earlier for treating many skin ailments. Curcumin, due to its broad spectrum of application, has not only been used in treatment of cancer but also due to its low toxicity profile it can be a good agent to treat radiation dermatitis.


To test the ability of oral Curcumin to reduce radiation dermatitis severity in patients receiving radiation therapy alone for breast cancer..


Study Design:

A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial was planned. Thirty adult female patients, with non-inflammatory breast cancer or carcinoma in situ prescribed radiation therapy without concurrent chemotherapy, were chosen for the study. Randomized patients took 2.0 g of Curcumin or placebo orally three times a day (6 g daily dose) throughout their course of radiation therapy. Patients were weekly assessed during the course of radiation therapy for the following parameters; Radiation Dermatitis Severity (RDS) score, presence of moist desquamation, redness measurement, McGill Pain Questionnaire-Short form and Symptom Inventory questionnaire.


Results and Discussion:

  1. Curcumin supplementation helped reducing the Radiation Dermatitis Severity (RDS) score measured at the end of radiation therapy. The mean RDS score for Curcumin treated patients were 0.8 lower than placebo treated patients. Curcumin also reduced the moist desquamation in the irradiated skin.
  2. Although Curcumin reduced the radiation dermatitis severity, it did not alter the skin redness.
  3. The oral Curcumin was found to be well tolerated by patients.
  4. The study shows that Curcumin can be used as an adjuvant in the radiation therapy as it can prevent the moist desquamation in the skin and also prevent the radiation dermatitis to some extent, thus improving the quality of life.
  5. The present study protocol underwent thorough and comprehensive review by FDA (IND 75,444) to ensure that patients are not subjected to undue risk for participation in this trial.



Curcumin was well tolerated in the breast cancer patients with no significant adverse event during the study. The oral Curcumin at dose level of 6 g/day significantly reduced the severity of radiation dermatitis and moist desquamation, therefore improved QOL during radiation therapy in patients with breast cancer. However, larger confirmatory trial is warranted for Curcumin effect.

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