Curcumin, a natural plant extract from Curcuma longa, is known for its anti-carcinogenic and chemopreventive effects on a variety of experimental cancer models. In this study, we evaluated the effects of curcumin and elucidated its mechanism in human colorectal carcinoma cells. Cell viability assay showed that curcumin significantly inhibited the growth of LoVo cells. Curcumin treatment induced the apoptosis accompanied by ultra-structural changes and release of lactate dehydrogenase in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, treatment with 0–30 µg/mL curcumin decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential and activated the caspase-3 and caspase-9 in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Nuclear and annexin V/PI staining showed that curcumin induced the apoptosis of LoVo cells. FACS analysis revealed that curcumin could induce the cell cycle arrest of LoVo cells at the S phase. Furthermore, western blotting analysis indicated that curcumin induced the release of cytochrome c, a significant increase of Bax and p53 and a marked reduction of Bcl-2 and survivin in LoVo cells. Taken together, our results suggested that curcumin inhibited the growth of LoVo cells by inducing apoptosis through a mitochondria-mediated pathway. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.