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Cancer Res. 2011 Apr 15;71(8):2809-14. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3756. Epub 2011 Apr 12.

The two faces of capsaicin.

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  • 1The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, Austin, Minnesota 55912, USA.

Abstract

Capsaicin (trans-8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is the principal pungent component in hot peppers, including red chili peppers, jalapeños, and habaneros. Consumed worldwide, capsaicin has a long and convoluted history of controversy about whether its consumption or topical application is entirely safe. Conflicting epidemiologic data and basic research study results suggest that capsaicin can act as a carcinogen or as a cancer preventive agent. Capsaicin is unique among naturally occurring irritant compounds because the initial neuronal excitation evoked is followed by a long-lasting refractory period, during which the previously excited neurons are no longer responsive to a broad range of stimuli. This process is referred to as desensitization and has been exploited for its therapeutic potential. Capsaicin-containing creams have been in clinical use for many years to relieve a variety of painful conditions. However, their effectiveness in pain relief is also highly debated and some adverse side effects have been reported. We have found that chronic, long-term topical application of capsaicin increased skin carcinogenesis in mice treated with a tumor promoter. These results might imply that caution should be exercised when using capsaicin-containing topical applications in the presence of a tumor promoter, such as, for example, sunlight.

©2011 AACR.

PMID:
21487045
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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