Curcumin, the major active component of the spice turmeric, is recognised as a safe compound with great potential for cancer chemoprevention and cancer therapy. It induces apoptosis, but its initiation mechanism remains poorly understood. Curcumin has been assessed on the human cancer cell lines, TK-10, MCF-7 and UACC-62, and their IC50 values were 12.16, 3.63, 4.28 microM respectively. The possibility of this compound being a topoisomerase II poison has also been studied and it was found that 50 microM of curcumin is active in a similar fashion to the antineoplastic agent etoposide. These results point to DNA damage induced by topoisomerase II poisoning as a possible mechanism by which curcumin initiates apoptosis, and increase the evidence suggesting its possible use in cancer therapy.