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Can Tomatoes Help Prevent Cancer?

"Tomatoes contain an antioxidant, lycopene, that is said to help in the prevention of cancer. Found naturally in a number of foods, some people take lycopene supplements to reduce their cancer risk, as well as boost their defense against conditions like diabetes and atherosclerosis. While there's no proof that lycopene supplements can fight cancer, some research suggests that increasing your lycopene intake may aid in cancer prevention.

- The Science Behind Tomatoes to Prevent Cancer:
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there's not enough scientific evidence to determine whether the lycopene in tomatoes can protect against any of the following types of cancer: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and prostate cancer.

Still, some studies show that adding more lycopene to the diet may lower cancer risk in certain groups of people. In a 2004 study from Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, for instance, scientists looked at data on 900 men and found that higher blood levels of lycopene were linked to reduced prostate cancer risk among older participants and those without a family history of prostate cancer.

In addition, some studies indicate that a diet high in lycopene (especially from tomatoes) may help prevent ovarian cancer in premenopausal women and reduce risk of pancreatic cancer.

There's also some evidence that a lycopene-rich diet may lower lung cancer risk in people who don't smoke.

On the other hand, a 2005 study from Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention concluded that high blood levels of lycopene are not linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer in middle-aged and older women.

Looking at data on 508 women with breast cancer and 508 breast-cancer-free women, the study's authors found that those with a higher dietary intake of lycopene weren't any less likely to develop breast cancer.

- Using Lycopene to Fight Cancer?:
Due to a lack of supporting research, lycopene supplements cannot be recommended in the prevention of cancer. What's more, little is known about the safety of taking lycopene supplements for longer than eight weeks. It's also crucial to note that using lycopene supplements as a substitute for standard cancer care can have serious health consequences.

To up your lycopene intake, try adding lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes, tomato sauce, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, and apricot to your diet. If you're still considering the use of lycopene supplements in prevention of cancer (or for any other health purposes), talk to your doctor before you begin taking the supplements".

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