Tomato and Cancer Prevention
Tomato and cancer prevention has been a
controversial topic for over a decade. Although some studies have shown its anticancer properties the FDA
prohibits any treatment or prevention claim. This article covers not only tomatoes but also lycopene and
prostate cancer treatment as well as the findings of the latest studies on tomato and breast cancer.
Tomato is a species of herbaceous plants
native to northwestern South America. It is widely consumed as a vegetable, raw or cooked. It has become an
essential element of food in many countries, including the United States. Tomatoes are rich in water
(93-95%) and very low in calories, about 17 kcal per 100 grams, yet very rich in minerals and vitamins: A, C
and E. Ripe tomatoes also contain carotenoids, including beta-carotene which acts as a provitamin A.
Tomato and Cancer
Tomatoes have been traditionally used in
herbal medicine due to its carotenoid and antioxidant contents, especially lycopene, known for its
anti-cancer properties and prevention against cardiovascular disease in particular. Note that lycopene is
more easily assimilated by eating cooked tomatoes the fact that cooking releasing nutrients by breaking the
Tomato and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most
frequently diagnosed cancers among men in the United States. Several studies have shown that frequent or
regular consumption of tomato derivatives could have a protective effect against the tumor. The compounds in
the tomato-based products would increase the resistance to oxidation of cells and thus would prevent the
development of this serious medical condition. According to the results of a meta-analysis, the biggest
consumers of tomatoes and its derivatives decrease by 10% to 20% their risk of developing prostate cancer
compared to men who ate little or none. Tomato and prostate cancer prevention also observe in people most at
Tomato and Breast Cancer and Other
According to twenty recent studies, high
consumption of lycopene, a major antioxidant in tomatoes, would be linked to a lower incidence of breast
cancer, lung cancer and stomach tumor. The consumption of tomatoes and lycopene could have a protective
effect on the incidence of cancers of the pancreas, colon, rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, and cervix. More
studies are however required to define the role of lycopene in the prevention of various types of cancer, as
well as that of other compounds present in the tomato, such as carotenoids.
Lycopene and Cancer
Tomatoes contain antioxidants,
especially carotenoids; the most abundant is lycopene, a pigment that gives it its bright red color. The
antioxidant activity of tomato is also ensured by various phenolic compounds. These compounds would protect
healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals, and prevent the development of cardiovascular disease,
certain cancers and other diseases related to aging.
Lycopene and Prostate Cancer
Lycopene is found in particularly high
concentration in the prostate tissue. According to several studies, this compound helps to prevent prostate
cancer. High concentrations of lycopene in the blood have been associated with lower incidences of this type
of tumor. By cons, taking lycopene supplements was not associated with the same effects in the body. The
researchers therefore conclude that lycopene is not the single compound responsible for these effects. It
would act in synergy with other compounds in tomatoes, including other
Tomatoes and tomato products are the
main sources of lycopene in the North American diet, providing 85% of this carotenoid. In addition to its
important antioxidant, the vegetable has cholesterol-lowering effects, anti-inflammatory, as well as the
ability to prevent the proliferation of certain types of cancerous cells. Although current data are
insufficient to recommend a daily intake of lycopene, studies indicate that consumption of more than 6 mg of
lycopene per day, about 2 raw tomatoes or ½ glass of tomato juice, could lead to the
Tomatoes and tomato derivatives contain
different amounts of lycopene according to the transformation process they have undergone: cooking, grinding,
homogenization, etc. The bioavailability of lycopene, that is its absorption in the body, increases when it
exchanges structure or when releases from the cells which contain it. Certain products significantly increase
the concentration of the pigment in the blood. For example, it would require consuming up to 13 times more
than fresh tomatoes or tomato juice to increase equivalently blood levels of lycopene provided by certain
Industrial by-products. Turning off fresh tomatoes into small pieces and eat them with healthy fat would
improve the absorption of carotenoids in the blood. However, the absorption capacity in the body differs from
one individual to another.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
Following a request from supplement
industry that wanted to promote anticancer claims of lycopene supplements, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) made a comprehensive analysis of the scientific data on the food source of lycopene and lycopene
supplements. In November 2005, on the basis of this information, the FDA refused to lycopene supplement
manufacturers the right to display anticancer allegations due to insufficient
The vast majority of data on the
association between tomato consumption and prevention of certain cancers are epidemiological studies which,
according to the FDA, do not allow to draw clear conclusions about the preventive effect of lycopene-rich
However, the FDA has a very nuanced
claim on certain products from tomatoes. In the United States, manufacturers can claim the potential
preventive effects of the consumption of tomatoes (or tomato products) against prostate cancer, but they have
to clearly state: "FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence to support this
WHO (World Health Organization)
In 2007, the global network of the World
Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) released its second report on the relationship between diet, physical activity
and cancer risk. The report is based on analysis of 500 thousand scientific studies, of which only 7,000 were
selected by an international committee of experts to draw up the report. The researchers conclude that there
is a sufficient body of evidence to support the preventive effects of foods containing lycopene, especially
tomato and its derivatives on prostate cancer. According to the report, the effect increases with dose and
lycopene is best absorbed when food is cooked and shredded.
Lycopene and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer treatment is an
interesting topic worldwide. According to the WCRF report in 2007, lycopene slow down the development of
prostate cancer and the effect would be more pronounced in the more advanced stages of
In 2009, a summary of the use of
lycopene and prostate cancer treatment indicates that it is impossible to comment on this purpose given the
current state of the data. By cons, WHO acknowledges lycopene alleviate the symptoms associated with prostate
cancer, such as pain and trouble urinating. On the other hand, it could inhibit the progression of cancer,
when combined with soy isoflavones (compounds that are capable of exerting estrogen-like effects), as
supplements or foods, suggests the report. The researchers also have hypothesized that other compounds of the
tomato can act in conjunction.
Lycopene and Breast Cancer
Lycopene and Breast Cancer treatment is
also highly controversial. Other claims allowed by FDA apply to potential prevention of stomach cancer,
ovarian cancer, Breast Cancer, and pancreatic cancer. However, they must be accompanied by a statement that
the preventive effect of tomatoes in this area is "unlikely or highly unlikely." This supports the
conclusions of WCRF who reported no significant effect of lycopene on other types of
1. Food and Drug Administration (États-Unis). Qualified
Health Claims: Letter of Partial Denial - . Tomatoes and Prostate, Ovarian, Gastric and Pancreatic Cancers
(American Longevity Petition)" (Docket No. 2004Q-0201) CFSAN/Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and
Dietary Supplements. November 8, 2005. [Consulté le 27 avril 2010]. www.fda.gov
2. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for
Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.
Washington DC: AICR, 2007. [Consulté le 27 avril 2010] www.dietandcancerreport.org
3. Prostate cancer and vegetable
consumption. Chan R, Lok K, Woo J. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Feb;53(2):201-16.
4. Kirsh VA, Mayne ST, et al. A prospective study of lycopene and tomato product intake
and risk of prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol
Biomarkers Prev 2006 January;15(1):92-8.
5. Cohen JH, Kristal AR, Stanford JL.
Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer
risk. J Natl Cancer
Inst 2000 January 5;92(1):61-8.
6. Is there a benefit from lycopene supplementation in men
with prostate cancer? A systematic review. Haseen F, Cantwell MM, et al. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2009;12(4):325-32.
Epub 2009 Sep 1. Review.
7. The effects of natural antioxidants from tomato extract
in treated but uncontrolled hypertensive patients. Paran E, Novack V, et al. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 2009 Apr;23(2):145-51. Epub
2008 Dec 4.
8. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and
prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer
Inst 2002 March 6;94(5):391-8.
9. Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE.
Role of lycopene and tomato products in prostate
health. Biochim Biophys
Acta 2005 May 30;1740(2):202-5.
10. Etminan M, Takkouche B, Caamano-Isorna
F. The role of tomato products and lycopene in the
prevention of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiol
Biomarkers Prev 2004 March;13(3):340-5.
11. Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE.
Role of lycopene and tomato products in prostate
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 May
12. Centre de prévention et de contrôle des maladies chroniques (CPCMC), Agence de santé
publique du Canada. Cancer de la prostate. 2010.
13. Ansari MS, Ansari S. Lycopene and prostate
cancer. Future Oncol 2005 June;1(3):425-30.