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Increased lycopene intake may be linked to lower prostate cancer risk

February 28, 2014

A new US study reports that men who regularly consume foods high in lycopene may be half as likely to develop lethal prostate cancer compared to those with low intakes.

The observational study obtained dietary information through questionnaires and documented total and lethal prostate cancer cases among 49,898 men, aged 40 to 75, over the course of 24 years (1). The study results showed that higher lycopene intakes (up to 13.4 mg/day) were associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer in total (28% reduction) and more strongly lethal prostate cancer (53%) compar- ed to participants with low intakes (up to 3.2 mg/day). In addition, increased lycopene intakes were linked to a lesser degree of forming new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels (angiogenesis) in tumors. Comparing different measures of lycopene intake, early intake, but not recent intake, was associated with lower prostate cancer risk.

The researchers commented that the participants who ate more lycopene consumed higher amounts of to- matoes and tomato products, such as tomato juice and pizza. Long-term or early lycopene intake may be more relevant for prostate cancer prevention, particularly prevention of aggressive prostate tumors. An earlier assessment of the data from the same study population showed that higher lycopene intake was linked to a 20% lower risk of prostate cancer (2). Other studies have found no such association (3). Studies linking dietary intake with disease risk are generally difficult to conduct. In the case of lycopene, the anti- oxidant can be difficult to measure in foods and its bioavailability can vary greatly.

References

  1. Zu K. et al. Dietary Lycopene, Angiogenesis, and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in the Prostate-Specific Antigen Era. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online February 2014.
  2. Giovannucci E. et al. A Prospective Study of Tomato Products, Lycopene, and Prostate Cancer Risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002; 94(5): 391-398.
  3. Kristal A. R. et al. Serum lycopene concentration and prostate cancer risk: results from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011; 20(4):638-646.