Nutrition News Updates

Categories: Winter 2007

Lycopene Not Useful In Preventing Prostate Cancer

Lycopene, thought to be useful in decreasing the risk for prostate cancer, appears to provide no protection at all.

The report is disappointing because popular thinking, even among doctors, was that it could be a way to lower prostate cancer risk.

The study, considered to be conclusive – although limited by a relative short follow-up of eight years and a single serum sample – was conducted with 28,000 men at the well respected Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and supported by the National Cancer Institute.

The study showed no connection between levels of serum lycopene in men and prostate cancer. In addition, it was not related to a lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer.

“It is disappointing, since lycopene might have offered a simple and inexpensive way to lower prostate cancer risk,” Dr. Peters, lead investigator of the study said. “Unfortunately, this easy answer just does not work.”

The recommendation to men who ask is to tell them that lycopene, found most abundantly in tomatoes and tomato products, does not appear to protect against prostate cancer.

Dr. Catalona now makes the same recommendation.

Beta-Carotene Proves Harmful

While lycopene appears to have no effect at all on prostate cancer risk, the same study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, showed that high levels of beta-carotene– found in carrots and leafy vegetables–appear to be associated with a three times increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer.

In other studies, beta-carotene was found to increase risk for lung cancer and cardiovascular disease among smokers, so the finding in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center study was unexpected but not surprising.

“While it would be counter-productive to advise people against eating carrots and leafy vegetables, I would say to be cautious about taking beta-carotene supplements, particularly at high doses,” Dr. Peters, lead investigator, said.

Dr. Catalona now makes the same recommendation.

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