Diet rich in tomatoes cuts skin cancer in half in mice

July 13, 2017 by Tracy Turner
Credit: The Ohio State University

Daily tomato consumption appeared to cut the development of skin cancer tumors by half in a mouse study at The Ohio State University.

The new study of how nutritional interventions can alter the risk for skin cancers appeared online in the journal Scientific Reports.

It found that male mice fed a diet of 10 percent tomato powder daily for 35 weeks, then exposed to ultraviolet light, experienced, on average, a 50 percent decrease in skin tumors 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 color, may protect skin against UV light damage, said Jessica Cooperstone, co-author of the study and a research scientist in the Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State.

There were no significant differences in tumor number for the female mice in the study. Previous research has shown that male mice develop tumors earlier after UV exposure and that their tumors are more numerous, larger and more aggressive.

"This study showed us that we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventive strategies," said the study's senior author, Tatiana Oberyszyn, a professor of pathology and member of Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"What works in men may not always work equally well in women and vice versa."   

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, Cooperstone said.

"Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments," she said.

"However, when comparing lycopene administered from a whole food (tomato) or a synthesized supplement, tomatoes appear more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, suggesting other compounds in tomatoes may also be at play."

In the new study, the Ohio State researchers found that only male mice fed dehydrated red tomatoes had reductions in growth. Those fed diets with tangerine tomatoes, which have been shown to be higher in bioavailable lycopene in previous research, had fewer tumors than the control group, but the difference was not statistically significant.

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

Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common of all cancers, with more new cases—5.4 million in 2012—each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

Despite a low mortality rate, these cancers are costly, disfiguring, and their rates are increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Alternative methods for systemic protection, possibly through nutritional interventions to modulate risk for -related diseases, could provide a significant benefit," Cooperstone said.

"Foods are not drugs, but they can possibly, over the lifetime of consumption, alter the development of certain diseases," she said.

More information: Jessica L. Cooperstone et al. Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-05568-7

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cancer vaccines need to target T cells that can persist in the long fight against cancer

September 25, 2017
Cancer vaccines may need to better target T cells that can hold up to the long fight against cancer, scientists report.

MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer

September 25, 2017
A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent being tested by researchers at Case Western Reserve University not only pinpoints breast cancers at early stages but differentiates between aggressive and slow-growing ...

Lung cancer treatment could be having negative health effect on hearts

September 25, 2017
Radiotherapy treatment for lung cancer could have a negative effect on the health of your heart new research has found.

Alternative splicing, an important mechanism for cancer

September 22, 2017
Cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, arises from the disruption of essential mechanisms of the normal cell life cycle, such as replication control, DNA repair and cell death. Thanks to the advances ...

'Labyrinth' chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells

September 21, 2017
Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. ...

Whole food diet may help prevent colon cancer, other chronic conditions

September 21, 2017
A diet that includes plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits may contain compounds that can stop colon cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases in pigs, according to an international team of researchers. Understanding how ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PTTG
2.5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2017
10% of each experimental diet was pure powdered tomato. There were 40 mice in the sample that showed the effects. Only one type of skin cancer was tested for.

If it's real, it's not impressive, and it probably isn't real.

This won't stop people from selling tomato extract like it'll cure brain cancer, autism, and broken bones.
eczemaliving
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2017
Dietary carotenoids are also believed to be the best antioxidants for eye disease as well. The one that has been studied the most is Lycopene, earlier researches say that lutein may be protective in eye diseases because they absorb damaging blue light that enters the eye. Perhaps this may be the reason of the reduction of skin cancer symptoms in mice. Secondly, tomato's contain abundant of lycopene within them.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.