Oral curcumin for radiation dermatitis: a URCC NCORP study of 686 breast cancer patients

Support Care Cancer. 2018 May;26(5):1543-1552. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-3957-4. Epub 2017 Dec 1.


Purpose: Despite advances in medical technology, radiation dermatitis occurs in 95% of patients receiving radiation therapy (RT) for cancer. Currently, there is no standard and effective treatment for the prevention or control of radiation dermatitis. The goal of the study was to determine the efficacy of oral curcumin, one of the biologically active components in turmeric, at reducing radiation dermatitis severity (RDS) at the end of RT, using the RDS scale, compared to placebo.

Methods: This was a multisite, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of 686 breast cancer patients. Patients took four 500-mg capsules of placebo or curcumin three times daily throughout their prescribed course of RT until 1 week post-RT.

Results: A total of 686 patients were included in the final analyses (87.5% white females, mean age = 58). Linear mixed-model analyses demonstrated that curcumin did not reduce radiation dermatitis severity at the end of RT compared to placebo (B (95% CI) = 0.044 (- 0.101, 0.188), p = 0.552). Fewer curcumin patients with RDS > 3.0 suggested a trend toward reduced severity (7.4 vs. 12.9%, p = 0.082). Patient-reported changes in pain, symptoms, and quality of life were not statistically significant between arms.

Conclusions: Oral curcumin did not significantly reduce radiation dermatitis severity compared to placebo. The skin rating variation and broad eligibility criteria could not account for the undetectable therapeutic effect. An objective measure for radiation dermatitis severity and further exploration for an effective treatment for radiation dermatitis is warranted.

Keywords: Cancer; Curcumin; Dermatitis; Radiation therapy; Skin.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Radiodermatitis / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Curcumin