Men: The Tomato May be Your New Best Friend

Men: The Tomato May be Your New Best Friend

The American cancer society estimates that approximately 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year; researchers, however, have found that one of the nutrients present in tomatoes appears to slow the progression and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The nutrient is called lycopene, and it is found in certain fruits and vegetables. Lycopene functions as an antioxidant, and also appears to encourage the body to break down and destroy cancer cells. It is responsible for the bright colors of many fruits and vegetables; it is what makes tomatoes red.

More research is needed to determine the extent that lycopene supplements may be useful in fighting prostate cancer. Regardless, men are encouraged to add more tomatoes and tomato-based foods to their diet, such as spaghetti sauce and some tomato-based soups. Other sources that provide lycopenes are grapefruit, watermelon, and sunrise or "red" papayas.

If you have concerns about prostate cancer, talk with your doctor. Experts don't know exactly what causes it, but several risk factors have been identified:

  • Age: the risk for prostate cancer increases after age 50;
  • Race: prostate cancer is about twice as common among African-American men than among Caucasians;
  • Diet and exercise habits: men who eat a lot of fatty foods are more at risk, as are those who don't get regular exercise and are overweight;
  • Genes: prostate cancer does seem to run in families, with men who have a father or brother with the disease having double-the-risk.

Whatever your age, nationality, or genetic make-up, go on, grab a V-8 or an extra slice of pizza (that's one extra slice, not 10).


Antioxidant: substances that help prevent damage to DNA and may therefore lower cancer risk.

Suggested Resources

The American Cancer Society's Book on Prostate Cancer by David G. Bostwick, M.D., Gregory T. MacLennon, M.D., and Thayne R. Larson, M.D. (Villard Books, 1999)


American Cancer Society Web site. "Prostate Cancer: Prevention and Risk Factors." The Prostate Cancer Resource Center. Available at: http//

Gann PH, Ma J, Giovannucci E, Willett W, et al. Lower prostate cancer risk in men with elevated plasma lycopene levels: results of a prospective analysis. Cancer Res 1999; 59(6):1225-1230.

Kucuk O, Sakr W, Sarkar FH, et al. Lycopene supplementation in men with localized prostate cancer (Pca) modulates grade and volume of prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) and tumor, level of serum PSA and biomarkers of cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference; April 13, 1999; Philadelphia.

Review Date: November 1999
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

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