Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is a polyphenol derived from the plant turmeric (Curcuma longa), which is commonly used as a spice. Although anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammation, and anti-angiogenic properties have been reported, the effect of curcumin on breast cancer metastasis is unknown. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is a major component in cancer cell invasion. In this study, we investigated the inhibitory effect of curcumin on 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced MMP-9 expression and cell invasion and the molecular mechanisms involved in MCF-7 cells. Our results showed that curcumin inhibits TPA-induced MMP-9 expression and cell invasion through suppressing NF-κB and AP-1 activation. Also, curcumin strongly repressed the TPA-induced phosphorylation of p38 and JNK and inhibited TPA-induced translocation of PKCα from the cytosol to the membrane, but did not affect the translocation of PKCδ. These results indicate that curcumin-mediated inhibition of TPA-induced MMP-9 expression and cell invasion involves the suppression of the PKCα, MAPK and NF-κB/AP-1 pathway in MCF-7 cells. Curcumin may have potential value in restricting breast cancer metastasis.