A diet rich in carotenoid-containing foods is associated with a number of health benefits. Lycopene provides the familiar red color to tomato products and is one of the major carotenoids in the diet of North Americans and Europeans. Interest in lycopene is growing rapidly following the recent publication of epidemiologic studies implicating lycopene in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancers of the prostate or gastrointestinal tract. Lycopene has unique structural and chemical features that may contribute to specific biological properties. Data concerning lycopene bioavailability, tissue distribution, metabolism, excretion, and biological actions in experimental animals and humans are beginning to accumulate although much additional research is necessary. This review will summarize our knowledge in these areas as well as the associations between lycopene consumption and human health.