How tomatoes reduce skin cancer

written by Meena Azzollini

tomotoes on a wooden table Credit:123RF

The rich juicy taste of a tomato is hard to beat. These fruits, mostly used as a vegetable and is a staple in our kitchen has many health benefits due to the myriad vitamins and minerals present in it.

One of its many benefits was discovered in a mouse study at The Ohio State University.

Daily consumption of tomatoes appeared to reduce the development of skin cancer tumours by half.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and despite its low mortality rate these cancers are costly, disfiguring and are increasing in incidence.

Both male and female mice consuming tangerine tomato powder showed accumulated levels of lycopene in their skin and plasma despite tangerine tomatoes having three times less lycopene in them as compared to red tomatoes.

Human clinical data suggest that continued consumption of tomato paste can reduce sunburn and this could be due to carotenoid pigments – which give the tomato its colour. Carotenoids in plants act as photoprotectants and as such carotenoids get deposited in the skin of humans after consumption where theoretically they can protect the skin from UV damage.

One of the primary carotenoids shown to be responsible for this effect is Lycopene.

However, previous studies have shown that when lycopene is administered from a whole food (tomato) it is more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, when compared to Lycopene given in the form of a synthetic supplement.

This suggests that other compounds present in tomatoes make a difference.

The objective of this new study was to determine whether dietary consumption of tomato could reduce the growth and progression of tumours after exposure to UVB, compared to a tomato-free diet.

It was found that male mice fed on a diet of 10 per cent tomato powder for 35 weeks and then exposed to UV light, experienced a 50 per cent decrease in skin cancer tumours compared to mice that had no tomato powder in their diet.

There was no significant difference in tumour growth in female mice although previous studies have shown that male mice develop tumours earlier and more aggressive ones after UV exposure.

This study showed that sex needs to be taken into consideration when exploring different preventative strategies.

The study also found that only male mice that were fed red tomato powder had reductions in tumour growth.

Both male and female mice consuming tangerine tomato powder showed accumulated levels of lycopene in their skin and plasma despite tangerine tomatoes having three times less lycopene in them as compared to red tomatoes. These mice had fewer tumours than the control group, but the difference was not statistically significant.

This further confirms an increase in bioavailability of lycopene from tangerine tomatoes.

Tomato alkaloid, including tomatidine were found present in the skin of the animals consuming the tomato-based diets suggesting that other compounds in tomatoes may be responsible for the reduction in the number of tumours.

This study paves the way for finding skin-cancer related preventative methods by using diet and consumption over a long period of time may change the way skin cancer develops.

So cook up tomato-based casserole or a warm winter soup or just eat it raw in your salad and derive the health benefits from this wonderful fruit.

Source: Scientific Reports


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!