Eating tomatoes every day may reduce risk of skin cancer, finds study

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If you love eating tomatoes, then here’s another reason to keep up the good habit. A recent study has found that eating tomatoes daily brings down the risk of skin cancer, especially in men, by half.

Through a study conducted on mice, researchers explained how nutritional interventions can alter the risk for skin cancers. Male mice were fed a diet consisting of 10% tomato powder daily for 35 weeks, then exposed to ultraviolet light. They experienced, on average, a 50% decrease in skin cancer tumours compared to mice that ate no dehydrated tomato.

“The theory behind the relationship between tomatoes and cancer is that dietary carotenoids, the pigmenting compounds that give tomatoes their colour, may protect skin against ultraviolet (UV) light damage,” said study co-author Jessica Cooperstone from the Ohio State University, US.

Cooperstone said previous human clinical trials suggest that eating tomato paste over time can dampen sunburns, perhaps thanks to carotenoids from the plants that are deposited in the skin of humans after eating, and may be able to protect against UV light damage.

Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments. However, when comparing lycopene administered from a whole food (tomato) or a synthesised supplement, tomatoes appear more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, suggesting other compounds in tomatoes may also be at play, the researchers stated.

The team found that only male mice fed dehydrated red tomatoes had reductions in tumour growth. Those fed diets with tangerine tomatoes, which have been shown to be higher in bioavailable lycopene in previous research, had fewer tumours than the control group.

Cooperstone is currently researching tomato compounds other than lycopene that may impart health benefits.

“Alternative methods for systemic protection, possibly through nutritional interventions to modulate risk for skin-related diseases, could provide a significant benefit,” Cooperstone said. “Foods are not drugs, but they can possibly, over a lifetime of consumption, alter the development of certain diseases,” she said.

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