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Chillies help kill prostate cancer cells

15th March 2006

New research claims that spicy chilli peppers can help kill cancer cells.

A team from the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) and the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute found that tumours in mice with prostate cancer were a fifth of the size of their compatriots when fed capsaicin, the active "spicy" chemical in chillies.

Writing in the journal Cancer Research, study author Dr Soren Lehmann said: "capsaicin had a profound anti-proliferative effect on human prostate cancer cells in culture".

The researchers claim that giving a human the weekly equivalent of three to eight habanera peppers – the hottest known peppers – would slow development of prostate cells and kill others.

Chris Hiley, head of research at the Prostate Cancer Charity in the UK, said that while she found the research "interesting", she warned against men eating too many chilli peppers until there was a way to extract capsaicin.

"High intake of hot chillies has been linked with stomach cancers in the populations of India and Mexico," she said.

Prostate cancer is thought to be responsible for 221,000 deaths worldwide each year and 10,000 in Britain alone.