Tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk

Elizabeth C. Miller, Edward Giovannucci, John W. Erdman, Robert Bahnson, Steven J. Schwartz, Steven K. Clinton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Several case-control and large prospective studies focusing on dietary assessment suggest that the intake of tomatoes and tomato products may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer [18]. Although less certain at present, the accumulated data suggest that the benefit may be most pronounced in the protection against more advanced or aggressive prostate cancer. It is possible that lycopene is one of the compounds in raw and processed tomato products that may contribute to a lower risk of prostate cancer; however, this hypothesis remains to be further investigated. Other carotenoids and phytochemicals in tomato products may also contribute to the proposed health benefits. Food processing does not seem to reduce the benefits but may, in fact, enhance the bioavailability of beneficial components. The reported correlations or associations between the consumption of tomato products and prostate cancer risk should not be interpreted as causal until additional data are available from a variety of studies in different populations. Ideally, randomized controlled intervention studies would provide an ultimate test of the tomato/lycopene hypothesis; however, the expense, long duration of exposure, and the near universal consumption of tomato products among Americans make a dietary intervention study difficult to undertake. It is reasonable to recommend to the general population the consumption of tomato products at approximately one serving per day or five servings per week as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern that may reduce the risks of prostate cancer, other malignancies, or other chronic diseases. This recommendation is consistent with current dietary guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable consumption to lower the risk of heart disease and many types of cancer [38]. Nutritional prevention of prostate cancer is very different from the use of dietary or nutritional treatments for established prostate cancer. The use of lycopene and other extracts for the treatment of prostate cancer is a separate issue that warrants individual attention and investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalUrologic Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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