Tomatoes And Prostate Cancer
and Prostate Cancer
March 5, 2002
(Journal of the National Cancer
Institute) -- Frequent consumption of tomato
products may be associated with a reduced risk
of prostate cancer, concludes a study in the
March 6 issue of the Journal of the National
Previous research has suggested
that frequent consumption of tomato products
or lycopene, an antioxidant in tomato sauce,
may be associated with a lower risk of prostate
cancer. To confirm these findings, Edward Giovannucci,
M.D., Sc.D., and colleagues from Brigham and
Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of
Public Health analyzed tomato-product-consumption
patterns and prostate cancer cases among roughly
47,400 men enrolled in the Health Professionals
The researchers found that
the consumption of tomato sauce was associated
with a reduced risk of prostate cancer among
men of Southern European descent (who typically
have tomato-rich diets), and among men of Caucasian
ancestry. The authors conclude that frequent
consumption of tomato products is associated
with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. They
note, however, that it remains to be seen whether
lycopene is the key compound in reducing prostate
does this article relate to me?
Eating more fruits and vegetables
to decrease cancer risk and heart disease gets
more support. Tomatoes are back in the news.
Prior research has suggested that eating tomato-based
products lowers the chance of getting prostate,
stomach, and lung cancers. So far, the evidence
is tied most closely to decreasing prostate
This article refers to a study
that looked at the eating habits of more than
47,000 men. The men who ate tomato sauce or
other preparations of cooked tomatoes two or
more times per week had a 20 percent less chance
of developing prostate cancer.
Although unproven, lycopene
may be the key ingredient in tomatoes that
leads to less cancer risk. Lycopene is a carotenoid
that gives tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit
their red color. Lycopene is an antioxidant.
changes do I need to make?
Most fruits and vegetables
can be eaten uncooked to get full nutritional
value. Tomatoes are probably an exception.
More lycopene is released from a cooked tomato.
This could be the reason why the decreased
cancer risk was seen with tomato sauce and
other tomato-based products, rather than raw
tomatoes. In addition, lycopene is best absorbed
through the intestine when eaten with fat.
So cooking tomatoes in olive
oil theoretically makes sense. You break down
the cell walls of the tomato, the lycopene
is released, you absorb more, and you get the
benefits of eating a healthy monounsaturated
can I expect in the future?
It’s very exciting to
think that we are starting to learn what foods
may help prevent specific diseases. General
recommendations for a healthy diet combined
with regular exercise probably won’t
change much over the next few years. But finding
a specific food that is not just associated
with decreased prostate cancer risk, but truly
prevents it, would be a fantastic discovery.