Lycopene is a non-provitamin A carotenoid that is responsible for the red to pink colors seen in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and other foods. Processed tomato products are the primary dietary lycopene source in the United States. Unlike many other natural compounds, lycopene is generally stable to processing when present in the plant tissue matrix. Recently, lycopene has also been studied in relation to its potential health effects. Although promising data from epidemiological, as well as cell culture and animal, studies suggest that lycopene and the consumption of lycopene containing foods may affect cancer or cardiovascular disease risk, more clinical trial data is needed to support this hypothesis. In addition, future studies are required to understand the mechanism(s) whereby lycopene or its metabolites are proven to possess biological activity in humans.