DETROIT, MICHIGAN. Epidemiological studies have shown that a high intake of tomatoes markedly reduces the risk of prostate cancer. It is believed that this beneficial effect is due to lycopene, the most common carotenoid in tomatoes. A team of researchers from Wayne State University, McGill University, University of Maryland, and the University of Hawaii has just concluded a clinical trial aimed at evaluating the benefits of lycopene supplementation in prostate cancer patients. The study included 26 men with clinically localized prostate cancer who were scheduled to undergo radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland). The men were randomized into a control group and an intervention group. The intervention group received one 15-mg lycopene capsule with breakfast and dinner for three weeks prior to surgery. Blood samples were taken before the start of supplementation and three weeks later just before surgery. The removed tumors and surrounding tissue were examined by pathologists.
The researchers conclude that lycopene supplementation lowers PSA levels; they observed an average 18
per cent decrease in the lycopene group as compared to a 14 per cent increase in the control group. The
level of the tumor suppressing protein Cx43 in the malignant part of the tumor was found to be substantially
higher in the lycopene group. It was also apparent that tumors tended to be smaller and more sharply
defined (less encroachment into surrounding healthy tissue) in the lycopene group. No adverse effects of
the lycopene supplementation were reported by the patients or their physicians. The researchers conclude
that lycopene is likely to be beneficial for both prevention and treatment of prostate cancer, but urge larger
trials to confirm this.