Can the consumption of tomatoes or lycopene reduce cancer risk?

Integr Cancer Ther. 2002 Jun;1(2):121-32; discussion 132. doi: 10.1177/153473540200100203.


Lycopene, a natural antioxidant found predominantly in tomato products, is attracting attention as a cancer prevention agent. Serum and dietary lycopene levels have been found to be inversely related to the incidence of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Although the antioxidant properties of lycopene are thought to be primarily responsible for its apparent beneficial effects, other mechanisms may also be involved. We outline the possible mechanisms of action of lycopene and review the current findings of in vitro and in vivo studies in cancer prevention and to some extent treatment. We examine the epidemiologic evidence regarding consumption of tomato and tomato products with the risk of cancer at various sites. Data suggest lycopene may account for or contribute to chemoprevention, but this hypothesis requires further study. Numerous other potentially beneficial compounds are present in tomatoes and complex interactions among multiple components may contribute to the anticancer properties of tomatoes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use*
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Solanum lycopersicum*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Plant Preparations
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene