A contrarian’s view of lycopene and prostate cancer

Despite the fact that it’s widely believed that lycopene protects against prostate cancer, Dr. Ulrike Peters at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle says “studies of the potentially protective role of lycopene have been contradictory or inconclusive.”

Here are two studies that support her skepticism.

In 2006, she and her colleagues evaluated the association between lycopene intake and specific tomato products and the risk of cancer of the prostate and other cancers in almost 30,000 men followed for over 4 years.

The results did not support the hypothesis that greater lycopene/tomato product consumption protects from prostate cancer.

Now, the results of another study in over 28,000 men compared blood levels of lycopene and the risk of prostate cancer.

  • Men were screened using a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test and digital rectal exam.
  • They were followed until the first occurrence of prostate cancer, death, or the end of the trial between one to 8 years later.
  • The researchers focused on non-Hispanic Caucasian men.

And the results.

  • There was no significant difference between those who developed prostate cancer and those who did not and their blood concentrations of lycopene.

The bottom line?
Here’s a review that discusses studies prior to 2004 where an association between lycopene and prostate cancer was noticed.

Perhaps as researchers use prospective studies to hone in on the lycopene:prostate cancer relationship the associations reported in earlier surveys and retrospective studies are not holding up.

5/21/07 22:27 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.