Ionizing radiation may cause damage to living tissue by producing free radicals like reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can randomly react with lipids, proteins and nucleic acids of cell causing oxidative stress and damage in these macromolecules, leading to pathogenesis of chronic diseases and age related and also cancer. The first line of defense from the damaging effects of ROS is antioxidants, which convert the oxidants to less reactive species. Lycopene (LYC) is an acyclic isomer of beta-carotene. It synthesized by plants or autotrophic bacteria but not by animals. Red fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots, pink guavas and papaya contain LYC. This carotenoid has very strong antioxidant properties. The many studies confirm that dietary supplementation with LYC reduces risk of cancers of many organs, but also retard the growth of the tumors. LYC has also chemopreventive effects against other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, male infertility and inhibits the toxic action of other agents. Numerous in vitro and animal studies showed that LYC may provide protection against damages induced by ionizing radiation. It suggests that supplementation of LYC might be useful in diminishing of negative effect of cancer radiotherapy or in mitigating the effects of possible radiation accidents on human health.
Key words: lycopene, antioxidants, anticarcinogenic agents, radioprotection.