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Tomatoes Linked to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk

Tomatoes on Vine in Sunshine

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland of the male reproductive system located between the bladder and the penis. It plays a very important role in male fertility and the proper functioning of the urinary tract, as it secretes fluid that nourishes and protects the sperm. The cells of the prostate gland can undergo mutation, transforming into tumors or cancerous cells. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Numerous studies have shown that dietary choices can either increase or decrease the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Given the growing body of evidence on the role of diet in the prevention and development of prostate cancer, a group of Chinese scientists examined the effect of high dietary ingestion of tomatoes on prostate cancer risk using a meta-analytic approach. The result of this study revealed that regular consumption of tomatoes is associated with a decline in prostate cancer risk. This research is not the first scientific study that found an inverse relationship between tomato consumption and prostate cancer development risk. The findings of a study published in the Journal of the National Institute of Cancer indicate that men who habitually consumed diets high in tomatoes are less likely to develop prostate cancer.

So how does tomato exert its protective effect on prostate cancer? Tomatoes are excellent sources of lycopene; in fact, 80% of the lycopene in the average American diet comes from tomatoes. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the body from the free radical-induced oxidative damage. Excessive free radicals in the body can cause damage to the DNA of the cells of the prostate and stimulate the mutation of normal cells to cancerous cells and tumors. Lycopene binds and destroys free radicals in the body before they can attach to the cells of the body and cause mutation that might lead to cancer.  Lycopene supplements do not work; one has to eat tomatoes instead of pop pills, because the protective benefits have been show to come from the complex interplay of nutrients in whole foods.

Approximately 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime, making this a very over-diagnosed cancer indeed. Over-diagnosis results in life-altering treatments for cancers that would probably never have killed the man nor caused him symptoms. For men who do not want end up with prostate cancer, making whole food plant based dietary choices can help to improve their chances of escaping this cancer. Avoiding dairy has been shown by the scientific studies of Dean Ornish MD to assist in turning off hundreds of genes programmed to promote prostate cancer. Tomatoes are one of those foods that studies have shown to be beneficial in the prevention of prostate cancer. Regular consumption of generous portions of tomatoes can help protect men from prostate cancer.

Additional Information:

(1) Prostate Cancer Statistics

(2) Lycopene/Tomato Consumption and the Risk of Prostate Cancer: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies

(3) How Lycopene Helps Protect Against Cancer

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