Posted on Jul 17, 2017, 8 a.m.
Eating tomatoes on a daily basis may reduce the development of skin cancer tumors by fifty percent.
Tomatoes get a bad rap for allegedly being bland, full of water and limited to a handful of dishes. The unfortunate truth is that many people consume this nutritious vegetable mainly in the form of ketchup. The problem with ketchup is that it is usually loaded with sugar and other additives. The appeal of tomato consumption is rooted in the vegetable's ability to combat the onset of skin cancer tumors. In fact, a recent study performed at the Ohio State University determined the daily consumption of tomatoes reduces the development of skin cancer tumors by 50 percent. The study was supported by funding provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. The results of this study were published on the web in the popular journal Scientific Reports.
About the Study
The Ohio State University's tomato study was conducted on mice across a span of three years. It shows nutritional interventions really can significantly affect the risk for skin cancers. The researchers fed male mice a diet consisting of 10 percent tomato powder each day across a span of 35 weeks. These mice were then subjected to ultraviolet light. They enjoyed a 50 percent reduction in skin cancer tumors compared to the mice that did not consume tomato powder. The theory behind the connection between tomatoes and skin cancer reduction is that the pigmenting compounds that provide tomatoes with their red color also serve to safeguard the skin against harmful ultraviolet light damage. These pigmenting compounds are known as dietary carotenoids.
Tumors in Male Mice Versus Those in Female Mice
It is worth mentioning that there were no major differences in the number of tumors in female mice in the Ohio State University study. Prior research showed that male mice endure the onset of tumors earlier following exposure to ultraviolet light. This research also showed that the tumors in male mice are larger, more frequent and much more aggressive. The Ohio State University study shows that sex does not matter when considering the various preventive strategies available.
Tomatoes and Sunburn
Prior human clinical trials suggest the consumption of tomato paste can alleviate sunburn pain/damage. This is likely due to the presence of carotenoids from the tomatoes deposited within the skin of humans. Such carotenoids might also be able to protect against ultraviolet light damage. The main carotenoid in tomatoes is lycopene. It has been shown to be an extremely effective antioxidant of the pigments. Researchers have compared lycopene's administration to that from whole tomatoes and synthesized supplements. They determined the consumption of whole tomatoes is more effective in the prevention of redness following exposure to the sun. This suggests additional compounds in tomatoes also play important roles.
Tomato Type Matters
Those who consumed tangerine tomatoes enjoyed fewer tumors than the mice in the control group. Tangerine tomatoes have been shown to have more lycopene than other varieties of tomatoes. However, the difference in tumor reduction was not particularly significant.
Though foods are certainly not drugs, their continued consumption across years and decades has the potential to affect the body in important ways. Additional research will be performed in the coming years concerning tomato compounds aside from lycopene that may provide important health benefits. It is possible that nutritional interventions to reduce the risk for skin-related diseases might provide substantial benefits.
Jessica L. Cooperstone, Kathleen L. Tober, Ken M. Riedl, Matthew D. Teegarden, Morgan J. Cichon, David M. Francis, Steven J. Schwartz, Tatiana M. Oberyszyn. Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-05568-7