According to a team of researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical and their colleagues from UCLA, the capsaicin in hot peppers caused human prostate cancer cells to undergo “programmed cell death”, a process otherwise known as apoptosis (pronounced: ap-op-toe-sys). Apoptosis is a natural process in many tissues that maintains a healthy balance between newer replacement cells and aged or worn out cells. In other words, the old worn out cells are naturally programmed to self-destruct. Cancer cells, on the other hand, often dodge this process by mutating the genes that participate in the process of apoptosis.
This new research showed that capsaicin induced approximately 80 percent of prostate cancer cells growing in mice to follow the molecular pathways leading to apoptosis. Moreover, prostate cancer tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumors in non-treated mice.