Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Lycopene and Prostate Cancer Prevention
Peer Review Status: Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Information Service
Lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes, guava, watermelon, and red grapefruit. It is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that help protect the body from the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are substances that cause damage to cells. This damage impairs the immune system, leading to infections, cancer, or degenerative diseases such as heart disease.
In the past decade, lycopene has been studied for its role in cancer prevention. A Harvard Medical School study found that four foods were associated with a low risk of developing prostate cancer: tomato sauce (on spaghetti), pizza with tomato sauce, tomatoes and strawberries.
Men who ate 10 or more servings of these foods weekly were 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer. Those who ate four to seven servings of the foods were 20% less likely to develop the disease. The Harvard study findings are consistent with other studies that have reported a low incidence of prostate cancer in southern Mediterranean countries.
A German study found that the absorption of lycopene is affected by what form the tomato is in and what is cooked with the tomato. Fresh tomato and tomato juice do not raise the blood lycopene level as high as does tomato sauce with oil cooked in the sauce--such as spaghetti or pizza sauce. Scientists believe that more lycopene is released when the tomato is crushed and cooked to be a sauce or paste. It was thought that fat is needed for lycopene to be absorbed efficiently.
Eating five or more servings of tomato sauce a week would be consistent with the recommendation of many medical groups that recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Tomato products can be among those five servings.
The reports of the past studies are promising. Scientists feel that more study is needed before it can be said conclusively that tomato products will prevent any kind of cancer. More studies are in progress and their reports will be known in the coming years.
Last modification date:
Mon Aug 7 13:09:58 2006