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Fighting prostate cancer with a tomato-rich diet

Press release issued: 27 August 2014

Men who eat over 10 portions a week of tomatoes have an 18 per cent lower risk of developing prostate cancer, new research suggests.

With 35,000 new cases every year in the UK, and around 10,000 deaths, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide.

Rates are higher in developed countries, which some experts believe is linked to a Westernised diet and lifestyle.

To assess if following dietary and lifestyle recommendations reduces risk of prostate cancer, researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford looked at the diets and lifestyle of 1,806 men aged between 50 and 69 with prostate cancer and compared with 12,005 cancer-free men.

The NIHR-funded study, published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, is the first study of its kind to develop a prostate cancer ‘dietary index’ which consists of dietary components – selenium, calcium and foods rich in lycopene – that have been linked to prostate cancer.

Men who had optimal intake of these three dietary components had a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Tomatoes and its products – such as tomato juice and baked beans - were shown to be most beneficial, with an 18 per cent reduction in risk found in men eating over 10 portions a week. This is thought to be due to lycopene, an antioxidant which fights off toxins that can cause DNA and cell damage.

Vanessa Er, from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol and Bristol Nutrition BRU, led the research.

She said: “Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention.  However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials.  Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”

The researchers also looked at the recommendations on physical activity, diet and body weight for cancer prevention published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). 

Only the recommendation on plant foods – high intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fibre - was found to be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.  As these recommendations are not targeted at prostate cancer prevention, researchers concluded that adhering to these recommendations is not sufficient and that additional dietary recommendations should be developed. 

The research was carried out at the National Institute for Health Research Bristol Nutrition Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol (NIHR Bristol Nutrition BRU). The research was carried out as part of the ProtecT study, which is funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme.

Further information

Paper

‘Adherence to Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations and Prostate Cancer Risk in the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) Trial’ by Vanessa Er, J. Athene Lane, Richard M. Martin, Pauline Emmett, Rebecca Gilbert, Kerry N. L. Avery, Eleanor Walsh, Jenny L. Donovan, David E. Neal, Freddie C. Hamdy and Mona Jeffreys in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

About the NIHR Bristol Nutrition Biomedical Research Unit

The National Institute for Health Research Bristol Nutrition Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol (NIHR Bristol Nutrition BRU) performs patient-focused early phase experimental clinical research (commonly referred to as experimental medicine) in the areas of human nutrition, diet and lifestyle (including obesity). Our aim is to pull basic scientific discoveries into clinical research and through to benefits for patients and the NHS.

The NIHR Bristol Nutrition BRU opened on 1 April 2012 and is a partnership between the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol.

About the National Institute for Health Research Technology Assessment

1. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme funds research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 700 issues published to date. The journal’s 2013 Impact Factor (5.116) ranked it two out of 85 publications in the Health Care Sciences and Services category. All issues are available for download, free of charge, from the website. The HTA Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/hta

2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).

This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.