Sarcoids in Horses - can turmeric help?
What is a sarcoid?
A sarcoid is a locally invasive skin tumour which does not spread to other organs. According to Royal Veterinary College, ‘Sarcoids are the most common skin tumour of horses, accounting for 40% of all equine cancers’.
Whilst most sarcoids are benign, veterinary advice should always be sought. There are different types of sarcoids and it is vital a vet identifies the type correctly so that the best treatment can be started (if treatment is required).
What do sarcoids look like?
Sarcoids can vary greatly in appearance and can be singular or in clusters. They are often found on the head, neck, chest and groin area. The different types include
- Occult sarcoids (hairless flat patch of skin with a scaly surface, often circular)
- Verrucose sarcoids (irregular shape, wart-like appearance, often multiple lesions)
- Nodular sarcoids (spanning 5cm+ but can vary in size, lumps often under thin and shiny skin)
- Fibroblastic sarcoids (aggressive, quick growing fleshy masses, prone to ulceration and bleeding, they may develop a stalk and become cauliflower-like)
- Mixed sarcoids (a mixture of two or more of the forms described above)
- Malevolent sarcoids (less common and the most aggressive type, invasive sarcoids that invade deeper tissues beneath the skin and often present as ulcerative nodular-like lesions in a group, can spread quickly)
What are the treatment options for sarcoids?
There are different medical and surgical options available, depending on many factors including the type and location of the sarcoid. Veterinary assessment is crucial because the wrong treatment can make sarcoids more aggressive leading to a less successful outcome. Check your horse’s skin and coat regularly and if you find a lump, even a small one, it is best to get it checked out in case it is a sarcoid because if left to become bigger treatment can be more complex. As sarcoids get bigger they can ulcerate and become infected. Depending on the location and type, they can also halt ridden work and make rugging uncomfortable for the horse.
What causes sarcoids?
Sarcoids are thought to be initiated as a response to viral antigens (possibly bovine papilloma virus). In response to these antigens apoptosis (programmed cell death) is disrupted and cell growth loses its regulation.
The body responds with the generation of inflammatory cytokines, including TNF (tumour necrosis factors), interleukins and many others, as a first step in re-setting the normal cell growth cycle.
Some horses appear to be genetically susceptible to the virus whereas others don’t develop sarcoids when exposed to the viral antigens. Any breed, age or sex of horse can be affected.
Can turmeric help a horse with sarcoids?
There is a strong relationship between oxidative stress and the cycle of inflammation and anti-inflammation, both as a direct effect and through the mediation of both oxidative and antioxidative enzymes. Through this mechanism dietary antioxidants (such as turmeric) have the potential to reduce oxidative stress.
In human medicine, research has been carried out on the potential of turmeric, including the antioxidant curcumin, as a treatment over a range of skin cancers. Results are promising!
Feeding turmeric products, being powerful antioxidants, may have an influence on oxidative stress, which may support the functionality of apoptosis.