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Lycopene and Cancer

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    An article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1999 looked at the epidemiologic data regarding the intake of tomato based products and the risks of developing various forms of cancer.

    The researchers at the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA found that among 72 studies identified, 57 reported inverse associations between tomato intake or blood lycopene level and the risk of cancer at a defined anatomic site.

    Interestingly, no study showed that "higher tomato consumption or blood lycopene level statistically significantly increased the risk of cancer".

    "The evidence for a benefit was strongest for cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Data were also suggestive of a benefit for cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast, and cervix. "

    The authors concluded that "the consistently lower risk of cancer for a variety of anatomic sites that is associated with higher consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products adds further support for current dietary recommendations to increase" tomtato products.

    According to an article published in the Lansing State Journal (LSJ.com) on August 11, 2003, "tomato products such as spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, ketchup and pizza sauce are the major sources of lycopene in the typical American diet." The author of the article stated that the above foods provide well "over 80 percent of the lycopene consumed in the United States."

    Lycopene is generting a lot of interest from consumers and advertisers of dietary supplements lately. But, do we need to buy supplements? Or do we get enough lycopene from our diet?

    Hollie W. Best, a nutritionist, states that "Americans eat more than 16 pounds of fresh tomatoes a year." According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume approximately 80 pounds in processed tomatoes annually.

    All of this should help reduce the incidence of cancers noted above. Dietary supplements of lycopene in the form of rosehip, can also help reduce the risk of getting cancers in those at risk! Prospective studies will help elucidate this in the next decade.



    Lycopene and Cancer Prevention, J Natl Cancer Inst 91(4):317-31.