Capsaicin, the fiery compound that gives chili peppers their heat, may also help fight prostate cancer, according to a new study published in Cancer Research (2006, vol. 66, no. 6). Researchers found that when mice were treated with capsaicin, almost 80 percent of their prostate cancer cells died, and the growth rate of their tumors decreased dramatically, reducing tumors to about one-fifth the size of those in untreated mice. This is more good health news about capsaicin, which has long been known as a natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial agent, and headache remedy.
Still, experts caution that simply spicing up a burrito with hot salsa won't duplicate the study's results. Habañero peppers are considered the hottest chili peppers on earth, and a man weighing 200 pounds would have to eat about ten habañeros three times a week to equal what researchers gave to their mice. However, with the American Cancer Society predicting over 234,460 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States this year, researchers are hopeful that more potent capsaicin supplements will have the same effects in humans as they did in mice.