Lycopene may help prevent prostate Ca in African-Americans

August 4, 2011

Lycopene could help prevent prostate cancer, especially in African-American men, according to recently published research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lycopene could help prevent prostate cancer, especially in African-American men, according to recently published research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"We’re not setting out to treat cancer, but to prevent it, and we’re hoping to do so with lycopene," said first author Richard van Breemen, PhD.

In the study, which was published in Cancer Prevention Research (2011; 4:711-8), patients aged 50 to 83 years who had a physical abnormality in their prostate were recruited from Chicago’s Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago. The men were scheduled for a prostate biopsy due to the abnormality and an elevated PSA.

Since the biopsies were scheduled 3 to 4 weeks in advance, it gave Dr. van Breemen and his coworkers the opportunity to do a 21-day study without interfering with the patients’ care.

Each day, half of the 105 participants received two gel capsules containing 30 mg of lycopene, while the other half received placebo capsules that contained only soybean oil. The lycopene approximated the amount that can be ingested daily by eating foods rich in tomato sauce, Dr. van Breemen said. The researchers wanted to see whether lycopene would rise in the blood and prostate tissue, and whether it could lower markers of oxidative stress.

After receiving lycopene or placebo for 3 weeks, all subjects underwent needle biopsies to diagnose BPH or prostate cancer. Two additional biopsies were taken to measure lycopene and DNA oxidation. The pathology indicated that 51 men had prostate cancer, while 65 had BPH.

Men who received lycopene showed a significant increase of the antioxidant in the blood, Dr. van Breemen said.