Tomatoes and Cancer


Tomatoes and Cancer Prevention

Tomatoes are a delicious and nutritious fruit that has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer. The key compound in tomatoes that appears to be responsible for their cancer-fighting properties is lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid, which is a type of antioxidant that can protect cells from damage.

A number of studies have shown that people who eat more tomatoes or tomato products have a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer. For example, a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that men who ate the most tomatoes had a 33% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than men who ate the least tomatoes. Another study, published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control, found that women who ate the most tomato sauce had a 20% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than women who ate the least tomato sauce.

In addition to prostate and ovarian cancer, tomatoes have also been linked to a reduced risk of stomach cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. A systematic review of 17 studies published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that people who ate the most tomatoes had a 21% lower risk of developing any type of cancer.

The exact mechanism by which lycopene protects against cancer is not fully understood. However, it is thought that lycopene can help to prevent cancer by:

  • Neutralizing free radicals: Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA, leading to cancer. Lycopene is an antioxidant that can help to neutralize free radicals.
  • Blocking the growth of cancer cells: Lycopene has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies.
  • Stimulating the immune system: Lycopene can help to boost the immune system, which may help to fight off cancer cells.
  • Reducing angiogenesis (new blood vessel development and growth)
  • Reducing metastasis.

Enhancing the Anti-cancer Lycopene in Tomatoes

Cooking with heat and oil helps release the lycopene from tomatoes. This cooking process allows the lycopene to be more available in the intestines and provides higher blood levels of Lycopene. Even olive oil drizzled on fresh tomatoes and consumed may help a little with lycopene absorption.

While tomatoes are a healthy food that can help to reduce the risk of cancer, it is important to note that they are not a magic bullet. Eating tomatoes is not a guarantee that you will never get cancer. However, including tomatoes in your diet as part of a healthy overall diet can help to reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

This information is for educational purposes. Check with your healthcare provider before making changes in your health program. 


Reference Sources Include 

Mazidi M, Ferns GA, Banach M. A high consumption of tomato and lycopene is associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality: results from a multi-ethnic cohort. Public Health Nutr. 2020 Jun;23(9):1569-1575.

Saini RK, Rengasamy KRR, Mahomoodally FM, Keum YS. Protective effects of lycopene in cancer, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases: An update on epidemiological and mechanistic perspectives. Pharmacol Res. 2020 May;155:104730.

Kapała A, Szlendak M, Motacka E. The Anti-Cancer Activity of Lycopene: A Systematic Review of Human and Animal Studies. Nutrients. 2022;14(23):5152. Published 2022 Dec 3. doi:10.3390/nu14235152

Arballo J, Amengual J, Erdman JW Jr. Lycopene: A Critical Review of Digestion, Absorption, Metabolism, and Excretion. Antioxidants. 2021; 10(3):342.

Ghasemi Baghabrishami R, Goli SAH. Tomato seed oil-enriched tomato juice: Effect of oil addition type and heat treatment on lycopene bioaccessibility and oxidative stability. Food Chem. 2023 Feb 15;402:134217. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.134217. Epub 2022 Sep 13. PMID: 36116275.


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