Diets High in Tomatoes Have a Lower Cancer Risk

Doctors may have found a new weapon in the battle against prostate cancer: the tomato. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found lower DNA damage and lower PSA levels among a group of men who consumed a pasta dish made with tomato sauce once a day for three weeks before undergoing surgery for the condition.
Prostate cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer-related death among men in the United States. Research has linked the cancer to oxidative DNA damage caused by free radicals. Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a substance that counteracts this damage. Previous studies, for example, have shown that men who eat diets high in tomato sauce have a 40 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than those who eat lower amounts.

In this study, investigators measured the DNA damage and PSA levels (a marker for prostate cancer) in 32 men, mostly blacks, who were scheduled to have surgery for their prostate cancer, then put the men on the special tomato sauce diet. Each of the daily tomato sauce-based entrees contained 3/4 cup of tomato sauce.

At the end of the three-week period, researchers checked the participants’ DNA damage and PSA levels again. Results showed a 21.3 percent decrease in oxidative damage compared with the earlier tests. When compared to a group of men who did not eat the special diet, men in the study had 28.3 percent less DNA damage. Their PSA levels also dropped, by 17.5 percent, but the investigators were unsure whether that decline was related to the diet or other factors.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2001;93:1872-1878

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