NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Lycopene, the carotene-like nutritional substance found prominently in tomatoes, appears to have a beneficial effect in patients who have been treated for advanced prostate cancer, Indian researchers report.
Drs. M. S. Ansari and N. P. Gupta of the All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi, note in the British Journal of Urology International that “there have been few trials in humans investigating the potential effects of lycopene supplementation for preventing and treating prostate cancer.”
To shed further light on the matter, the researchers studied 54 patients with confirmed prostate cancer that had spread beyond the gland. Since such cancers are driven by male hormones, the patients underwent the standard procedure of castration. Immediately following surgery, half the patients were assigned to take 2 milligrams of lycopene twice daily.
Both groups of patients had a significant reduction in prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, an indicator of cancer clearance. However, the PSA reduction was more marked in the group given lycopene.
Specifically, the average PSA level in the patients taking lycopene fell from 251 units before surgery to 9 at six months, and to 3 after two years. Corresponding figures in the surgery-only group were 260, 26 and 9 units.
In all, 78 percent of patients in the lycopene group had a complete response based on a PSA reading of less than 4, compared to 40 percent in the other group.
An added benefit was a significant improvement in peak urinary flow in patients given lycopene.
Furthermore, 22 percent of the lycopene group died versus 35 percent of those not given lycopene.
The researchers conclude that lycopene supplementation reduces serum PSA levels, improves survival and “not only shrinks the primary tumors, but also diminishes the secondary tumors, providing better relief from bone pain and lower urinary tract symptoms.”
SOURCE: British Journal of Urology International, September 2003.