Tomatoes, lycopene, and prostate cancer: progress and promise

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):869-80. doi: 10.1177/153537020222701006.


Prostate cancer has emerged as a major public health problem in nations that have an affluent culture with an aging population. The search for etiologic risk factors and an emphasis on the development of chemopreventive agents has gained momentum over the last decade. Among the landmark epidemiologic findings during this period has been the association between the consumption of tomato products and a lower risk of prostate cancer. The traditional reductionist scientific approach has led many investigators to propose that lycopene, a carotenoid consumed largely from tomato products, may be the component responsible for lowering the risk of prostate cancer. Thus, many laboratory and clinical studies are now underway with the goal of assessing the ability of pure lycopene to serve as a chemopreventive agent for prostate and other malignancies. The focus on lycopene should continue, and an improved understanding of lycopene absorption, distribution, role in antioxidant reactions, and metabolism is critical in the quest to elucidate mechanisms whereby this compound could possibly reduce prostate cancer risk. In contrast to the pharmacologic approach with pure lycopene, many nutritional scientists direct their attention upon the diverse array of tomato products as a complex mixture of biologically active phytochemicals that together may have anti-prostate cancer benefits beyond those of any single constituent. These contrasting approaches will continue to be explored in clinical, laboratory and epidemiologic studies in the near future, providing hope that the next generation will benefit from this knowledge and experience a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Solanum lycopersicum / chemistry*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene