How cooked tomatoes could help fend off prostate cancerRed pigment can help destroy abnormal cellsTomato-based products more effective than raw fruit
Prostate cancer kills 10,000 men in the UK every year (posed by model)
Cooked tomatoes could help protect against prostate cancer, say scientists.
A study found that lycopene – a pigment which gives fruit and vegetables a red colour – can slow the growth and even destroy abnormal cells.
This builds on a long line of research looking at whether tomatoes can combat the disease which kills 10,000 men in the UK every year.
Lycopene is present in many foods, but its concentration is highest in the tomato fruit.
Varying levels of the nutrient are found in different breeds of tomato plant and scientists are now investigating which type is most effective.
Lead researcher Dr Mridula Choprafrom the University of Portsmouth said: 'The
ability of lycopene to 'intercept' in this way in the body is likely to
vary between tomato products.
'The type of tomatoes which offer the
most effective lycopene also differs and more tests need to be done to
find the best breed of tomato for this purpose.'
Findings suggest that tomato sauce and other tomato-based products are more effective than raw tomatoes as cooking the fruit helps to break down the cell walls, increasing the amount of lycopene released.
During laboratory experiments lycopene was shown to disrupt growth and spread or cancer cells, by preventing links to the blood supply.
The researchers are now calling for tests to check if the same reaction occurs in the human body.
Dr Chopra added: 'I stress that our tests were done in test tubes in a laboratory and more testing needs to be carried out to confirm our findings, but the laboratory evidence we have found is clear.
'It is possible to intercept the simple mechanism some cancer cells use to grow at concentrations that can be achieved by eating sufficient cooked tomatoes.'
Cooked tomatoes could help protect against prostate cancer, say scientists
Earlier studies by the same research team found subjects demonstrated a significant increase in lycopene
levels in blood and semen samples after eating 400g (14oz) of
processed tomatoes for two weeks.
Dr Chopra added: 'The important thing is for sufficient lycopene to reach where it can matter. We know that in case of prostate tissues it gets there.
'We have tested this in the labs but we don't yet know if the same action will happen in the body.'
Eleanor Barrie, from Cancer Research UK, said that the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, is promising but more more research is needed to see how cancer patients could benefit.
'Some existing cancer drugs target the formation of new blood vessels, but more research is needed to show how they could be used to help cancer patients.
'This small study doesn't directly tell us if lycopene has any effect against cancer, but research like this can help us to understand more about how the chemical affects blood vessel formation.'
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and each year in the UK about 36,000 men are diagnosed.