Investigating Habanero Peppers on Prostate Cancer

Susan MacVittie

Habanero pepper and prostrate cancerWhen Ed Wolf was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, he was determined to seek alternate treatment, which led him to the discovery of the cancer killing properties in habanero peppers.

Capsaicin, the component that turns up the heat in habanero peppers, not only causes the tongue to burn, it also drives prostate cancer cells to kill themselves, according to studies published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Cancer Research. Researchers from the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in collaboration with colleagues from UCLA, found that the pepper component caused human prostate cancer cells to undergo programmed cell death or apoptosis. Prostate cancer tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumours in non-treated mice.

The dose of pepper extract fed orally to the mice was equivalent to giving 400 milligrams of capsaicin three times a week to a 200 pound man, roughly equivalent to between three and eight fresh habanero peppers – depending on the pepper’s capsaicin content. Habaneros are the highest rated pepper for capsaicin content, according to the Scoville heat index.

Researchers found that the capsaicin was able to restrain the growth of prostate cancer by regulating the androgen receptors. The capsaicin caused the prostate cancer cells to freeze by reducing the amount of testosterone entering the cell. Prostate cancer cells need testosterone to grow.

The hot pepper component also reduced cancer cell production of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a protein that often is produced in high quantities by prostate tumours and can signal the presence of prostate tumours in men. The PSA content in the blood of men is used as a diagnostic prostate screening measure in men.

In a study published in the February, 2010 Canadian Urological Association Journal it was reported that there was an observed delay in PSA progression in a prostate cancer patient associated with use of capsaicin. Although the cause-effect relationship could not be concluded and should be considered hypothesis generating, the researchers found that because “capsaicin is inexpensive, easy to administer, has no known side effects and may have tumouristatic properties (at least based on in vitro work), it holds promise as an adjunctive treatment option.”

The USFDA approved a topical form of capsaicin for treating pain more than twenty years ago that is still sold without a prescription. Capsaicin in topical form is promoted mainly for pain caused by conditions such as arthritis and general muscle soreness.

When Calgary endocrinologist, Dr. David Hanley informed Wolf that habanero peppers were harmlessly digestible in the gut, Wolf decided to embark on his habanero treatment. In May 2006, Wolf began taking 1 1/2 to 2 habanero peppers daily until December 2008 when a biopsy taken at Cedars-Sinai Hospital revealed that there was no more cancer. To this day Wolf remains cancer free without the aid of chemotherapy or radiation.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men. It is estimated that 26,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,000 will die of it.
As Wolf says, “even though the pharmaceuticals available today for cancer treatment will not entertain anything natural, it is time we all broadened our perspective on such options, and paid some respect for the ‘alternatives.’”


A geologist by trade, Mr R.E. Wolf is a successful entrepreneur and a thoughtful Unitarian who has no commercial interest with habanero pepper therapy but wants to offer hope to those suffering with cancer.

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