Can Eating Tomatoes Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk?

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Headed to the grocery store? If so, you might want to pick up some tomatoes. Some studies suggest that tomatoes and tomato-based products (such as tomato sauce, tomato juice, and ketchup) are linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Tomatoes are a leading source of the antioxidant lycopene. Antioxidants are substances that inhibit damaging molecules called free radicals. Additional studies are needed to firmly establish whether lycopene, alone or in combination with other dietary components, lowers prostate cancer risk.

One scientist who has been at the center of much groundbreaking research on lifestyle and prostate cancer is June Chan, D.Sc., an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. We recently spoke to Dr. Chan about her dietary advice for men with prostate cancer. Here are some of her thoughts on consuming tomato products.

“We do recommend that men with prostate cancer consume plenty of cooked tomato products. We aren’t really sure which nutrient they contain that’s beneficial, though some of the phytochemicals, like lycopene, in tomatoes might be helpful.”

She adds, “We know that oil and heat make the nutrients in tomatoes more bioavailable, or more capable of being absorbed and used by the body, which is why we recommend cooked tomato products like tomato sauce or juice, or even salsa.”  One caveat: “We do not recommend taking lycopene in the form of a nutritional supplement.”

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