Tomatoes: Super-Soldiers in the Fight Against Prostate Cancer

We know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the world. But did you know that it is much less prevalent in developed countries? So it stands to reason that there must be something distinctive about Western society that would account for that discrepancy. Researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford believe it's our diet.

Tomatoes, specifically.

The study, published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, is the first “dietary index” to track dietary components and their effects on prostate cancer.  Researchers compared the diets and lifestyle behaviors of 1,806 prostate cancer patients between the ages of 50 and 69 with 12,005 cancer-free men.  They discovered that selenium, calcium, and lycopene effectively reduced prostate cancer risk, with lycopene showing the most influence.

The results were pretty definitive. Men who consumed 10 portions a week of tomatoes or tomato products (like baked beans or tomato juice) had an 18 percent reduced risk for developing prostate cancer!

Lead researcher Vanessa Er, from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol and Bristol Nutrition BRU, explains: “Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention.  However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials.  Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”

Lycopene was the star of the study, but what exactly is it? It' a carotenoid found in fruits such as the tomato, apricot, guava, and watermelon.  It has been shown to shield against toxins that damage DNA and cells.  Previous studies have shown that lycopene suppresses androgen receptor expression in prostate cancer cells in vitro, and decreases prostate cancer cell proliferation.  Lycopene has also been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration, which is the primary cause of vision loss in people over 60.

The researchers also analyzed lifestyle factors, particularly the anti-cancer lifestyle recommendations for diet, physical activity, and body weight set forth by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research. While the suggestions of these two organizations are pertinent to overall cancer prevention, they are not targeted at prostate cancer prevention, and researchers determined that only dietary recommendations lowered prostate cancer risk. This study confirms that a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and fiber helps lower your odds of a prostate cancer diagnosis.