Tomato Rich Diet May Help Prevent Skin Cancer

The most common cancer in the world continues to be on the rise, and new preventive measures are needed to face the increasing challenge. An interesting line of research currently explores the role of food, or more specifically natural compounds found in food, in the treatment and prevention of cancer. The luscious red fruit from the festival La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain, features a natural compound that has recently been found to combat skin cancer. A team of researchers at The Ohio State University has conducted promising research with mice, which documents therapeutic properties of tomatoes. The findings suggest that the daily consumption of tomatoes could be an effective skin cancer prevention measure. It appears that the saying that one should get out of the Tomatina with rejuvenated skin and hair might have a scientific basis after all.

The striking red color of tomatoes is caused by a high carotenoid concentration. These compounds have strong antioxidant properties, and the most prominent carotenoid in tomato is lycopene. To observe whether tomatoes had any influence on the onset of skin cancer, researchers enriched mice food with the tomato powder every day over 35 weeks. Then they compared the cancer biomarkers from before and after the eating period. Scientists found that male mice enjoyed a 50% lower incidence of skin cancer after UV radiation exposure. Possibly the most surprising about this study is the fact that only the males benefitted from the tomato-rich diet. No significant change in skin cancer risk was observed in the female mice. Scientists do not yet understand why this was the case, but the results suggest that this treatment’s efficacy might be sex dependent.

UV radiation causes damage to skin cells and promotes aging. This process is implicated in the onset of more than 90% of skin cancers. The scientists at the Ohio State University theorize that the carotenoid pigments present in tomato and other plant foods offer protection against UV radiation by being deposited in the skin.

The scientists also highlight how the ingestion of a whole fruit had a stronger effect than the ingestion of a supplement with the isolated carotenoid, which suggests that other compounds in the fruit also may play a role in cancer prevention.

The world famous annual festival is hosted by the city of Buñol since 1944. It gathers thousands of people in the greatest tomato bath in the world. The anecdotal accounts of seemingly supple skin from participants are not rare, and this study sheds some light on some of the potential processes involved. The findings add further evidence to previous research about the benefits of tomato for the skin. A 2012 study at the University of Michigan had shown that people eating 40 grams of the fruit on a daily basis were better protected from sunburns caused by UV exposure than those who didn’t eat tomato.