Lycopene, a carotenoid, is used for preventing atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is also used to treat prostate cancer and asthma. It is the pigment that gives some fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, their red color. It is also found in watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots and pink guavas.
Lycopene supplements are used orally to treat prostate cancer. High lycopene plasma levels from dietary intake seem to reduce prostate cancer risk by 83% compared with men with low plasma lycopene levels. Dietary lycopene and other carotenoids are used to prevent lung cancer. There is epidemiological evidence that consumption of lycopene from foods (12 mg per day or more for men, and 6.5 mg per day or more for women) decreases the risk of lung cancer in non-smoking men aged 40 to 75, and non-smoking women aged 30 to 55.
Lycopene has the most potent antioxidant activity of any common carotenoid. It might reduce cancer risk by scavenging free radicals and preventing oxidative damage to DNA. Researchers are interested in lycopene as a prevention of cancer, atherosclerosis and other conditions. Evidence suggests that lycopene may decrease cholesterol synthesis and increase removal of LDL cholesterol from circulation. Lycopene seems to have some direct effects within the prostate, specifically up-regulating tumor suppressor genes.
prostate, specifically up-regulating tumor suppressor genes.
Lycopene may be immune stimulating and have thymic support properties that may make them helpful for certain health conditions such as prostate cancer, asthma, atherosclerosis, immunity and macular degeneration (vision).
Published Clinical Studies
- Rao AV, Agarwal S. Role of antioxidant lycopene in cancer and heart disease. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19(5):563-9.
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- Michaud DS, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of specific carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in 2 prospective US cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:990-7.
- Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. J Natl Cancer Inst, 1999;91(4):317-31.
- Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1995;87:1767-76.
- Tzonou A, Signorello LB, Lagiou P, et al. Diet and cancer of the prostate: a case-control study in Greece. Int J Cancer 1999;80(5):704-8.
- Kucuk O, Sarkar FH, Sakr W, et al. Phase II randomized clinical trial of lycopene supplementation before radical prostatectomy. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2001;10:861-8.
- Rao AV, Agarwal S. Bioavailability and in vivo antioxidant properties of lycopene from tomato products and their possible role in the prevention of cancer. Nutr Cancer 1998; 31(3): 199-203.
- Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, et al. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:391-8.
- Paetau I, Khachik F, Brown ED, et al. Chronic ingestion of lycopene-rich tomato juice or lycopene supplements significantly increases plasma concentrations of lycopene and related tomato carotenoids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:1187-95.
- Gartner C, Stahl W, Sies H. Lycopene is more bioavaiable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:116-22.
- Clinton SK, Emenhiser C, Schwartz SJ, et al. Cis-trans lycopene isomers, carotenoids, and retinol in the human prostate. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1996;5(10):823-33.
- Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, et al. Relation of consumption of vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotenoids to risk for stroke among men in the United States. Ann Intern Med 1999;130:963-70.
- Gann PH, Ma J, Giovannucci E, et al. Lower prostate cancer risk in men with elevated plasma lycopene levels: results of a prospective analysis. Cancer Res 1999;59:1225-30.
- Zhang S, Hunter DJ, Forman MR, et al. Dietary carotenoids and vitamins A, C, and E and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:547-56.
- Johnson EJ, Qin J, Krinsky NI, Russell RM. Ingestion by men of a combined dose of beta-carotene and lycopene does not affect the absorption of beta-carotene but improves that of lycopene. J Nutr 1997;127(9):1833-7.
- Neuman I, Nahum H, Ben-Amotz A. Reduction of exercise-induced asthma oxidative stress by lycopene, a natural antioxidant. Allergy 2000;55:1184-9.
- Gann PH, Khachik F. Tomatoes or lycopene versus prostate cancer: is evolution anti-reductionist? J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:1563-5.
- Sesso HD, Liu S, Gaziano JM, Buring JE. Dietary lycopene, tomato-based food products and cardiovascular disease in women. J Nutr 2003;133:2336-41.
- Yeum KJ, Ahn SH, Rupp de Paiva SA, et al. Correlation between carotenoid concentrations in serum and normal breast adipose tissue of women with benign breast tumor or breast cancer. J Nutr 1998;128:1920-6.
- Cramer DW, Kuper H, Harlow BL, Titus-Ernstoff L. Carotenoids, antioxidants and ovarian cancer risk in pre- and postmenopausal women. Int J Cancer 94:128-34.
- Kim MK, Ahn SH, Lee-Kim. Relationship of serum alpha-tocopherol, carotenoids and retinol with the risk of breast cancer. Nutrition Research 2001;21:797-809.
- Slattery ML, Benson J, Curtin K, et al. Carotenoids and colon cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:575-82.
- Richelle M, Bortlik K, Liardet S, et al. A food-based formulation provides lycopene with the same bioavailability to humans as that from tomato paste. J Nutr 2002;132:404-8.
- Boileau TW, Liao Z, Kim S, et al. Prostate carcinogenesis in N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (NMU)-testosterone-treated rats fed tomato powder, lycopene, or energy-restricted diets. J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:1578-86.
- Kohlmeier L, Kark JD, Gomez-Gracia E, et al. Lycopene and myocardial infarction risk in the EURAMIC Study. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146:618-26.
- Arab L, Steck S. Lycopene and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1691S-5S.
- Norrish AE, Jackson RT, Sharpe SJ, Skeaff CM. Prostate cancer and dietary carotenoids. Am J Epidemiol 2000;151:119-23.
- Matlaga BR, Hall MC, Stindt D, Torti FM. Response of hormone refractory prostate cancer to lycopene. J Urol 2001;166:613.
- Lu QY, Hung JC, Heber D, et al. Inverse associations between plasma lycopene and other carotenoids and prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2001;10:749-56.
- Hak AE, Stampfer MJ, Campos H, et al. Plasma carotenoids and tocopherols and risk of myocardial infarction in a low-risk population of US male physicians. Circulation 2003;108:802-7.