Capsaicin May Be Linked to Skin Cancer

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Capsaicin is the main ingredient in a group of plants - cayenne pepper, jalapeno pepper, paprika and other hot peppers. Besides being included in a number of foods, this ingredient is available in a topical cream, used as a pain reliever for arthritis and muscle pain. Throughout the years, capsaicin has been touted as having many beneficial health benefits, such as managing pain after surgery for cancer, relief from pain from mouth sores after chemotherapy, reducing pain from arthritis, muscle pain and neuropathy. Some proponents believe it has antioxidants that can help prevent cancer. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an over-the-counter topical pain treatment.

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    A number of studies have been completed and found mixed results. In studies for pain relieve after mastectomies, only 50 percent of women found it to be helpful in treating pain. A few studies have shown it is helpful in treating the pain from neuropathy but that it is not effective as a stand-alone treatment. Other studies show mixed results - with some participants having a reduction in pain while others either did not or could not tolerate the burning sensation that accompanies using capsaicin cream.

    Capsaicin and Skin Cancer

    A study completed at the Hormel Institute shows that topical forms of capsaicin may increase the risk of skin cancer. Researchers at the Hormel Institute, a cancer research center at the University of Minnesota, found that capsaicin can act as a carcinogen during the tumor promotion stage. According to the study, topical applications of capsaicin on mice showed skin cancer growth and an increase in size and frequency of tumors on the skin of certain types of mice. In addition, an enzyme that causes inflammation, was elevated after treatment with capsaicin.

    The results show a possibility that using topical creams containing this ingredient may impact cancer development. According to Ann Bode, lead researcher, “Most notably, the results raise concerns that a natural compound found in hot peppers and used in over-the-counter topical pain remedies might increase skin cancer risk.” [1]

    For those at risk of developing skin cancer, you should talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of capsaicin creams before using them.


    “Hormel Institute Study Reveals Capsaicin Can Act as Cocarcinogen,” 2010, Staff Writer, The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota

Published On: December 05, 2013