Lycopene and prostate cancer prevention in African American men

Over the years there has been much noise and little good data regarding the effects of lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer. Indeed, all we can really say today is that there is an association between eating tomato-based products and a reduced risk for prostate cancer. The ability of lycopene to prevent prostate cancer  certainly hasn’t been proven in any type of prospective clinical trial.

A new study by van Breemen et al., reported in Cancer Prevention Research, and additional information in a media release from the University of Illinois at Chicago have now described a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of the effect of a daily dose of lycopene (at 30 mg/day as a “tomato oleoresin”) in 105 African-American men for 21 days immediately preceding prostate biopsy for diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Here are the key findings of the study:

  • 47/105 men had a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  • 58/105 men had a diagnosis of benign prostate hyperplasia.
  • The average (mean) plasma lycopene concentration increased from 0.74 ± 0.39 μmol/l among men receiving the placebo to 1.43 ± 0.61 μmol/l among men being treated with the tomato oleoresin (P < 0.0001).
  • The mean prostate tissue lycopene concentration increased from 0.45 ± 0.53 pmol/mg among men receiving the placebo to 0.59 ± 0.47 pmol/mg among men treated with the tomato oleoresin (P = 0.005).

This study does not tell us whether ingestion of lycopene does, in fact, have any ability to delay or prevent the onset of prostate cancer. On the other hand, it does at least imply that serum and prostate tissue levels of lycopene increase in African-American men taking the potentially preventive product.

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