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Can a Tomato a Day Keep Skin Cancer At Bay?


Research at Ohio State University found that eating a tomato-rich diet might offer substantial protection against skin cancer.

Scientists have theorized that dietary carotenoids, the pigment compounds that give tomatoes their characteristic color, might protect the skin from damage caused by UV rays from the sun, explains 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 University.

In the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, mice were fed a diet that contained 10 percent tomato powder for 35 weeks. The rodents were then exposed to UV light and the development of skin cancer tumors was documented. Compared to mice that consumed no dehydrated tomatoes, the mice with the tomato-augmented diet experienced, in general, a 50-percent reduction in developing skin cancer.

No significant benefit was noted in the female mice; however, earlier research shows that male mice develop tumors more quickly after UV light exposure. The male tumors are also larger in size, greater in number and more aggressive than those in female mice.

“This study showed us that we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventive strategies,” said the study’s senior author Tatiana Oberyszyn.

Tomato Paste Helps Prevent Sunburns

Prior clinical trials indicate that consuming tomato paste regularly can offer some protection against sunburns. This benefit is due to the deposits of plant carotenoids in the skin, said Cooperstone. Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients found in greens, algae and bacteria with strong antioxidant powers. “Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments,” she said.

In a study involving the consumption of tomato paste daily for 12 weeks, the participants enjoyed a 33-percent elevation in sun protection. In addition, they had a rise in levels of procollagen, the precursor of collagen – the compound that keeps the skin supple.

Eating a fresh, organic tomato is more beneficial than consuming a synthesized tomato supplement. Cooperstone said, “… 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.”

Researchers Are Exploring Nutritional Interventions for Skin Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers exceeds all other types of malignancies. It is more common than breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer combined. Although the mortality rate is low, the financial impact is staggering and the lesions are disfiguring. As the rate of skin cancer is on the rise, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report from the Surgeon General that was a call to action to prevent the disease. As a result, dietary elements such as lycopene and vitamin B3 are being investigated for their effectiveness in lowering the risk of the malignancy.

“Alternative methods for systemic protection, possibly through nutritional interventions to modulate risk for skin-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.

In addition to tomatoes, other foods have skin cancer-fighting properties. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating a variety of them to maximize protection from cancer development.

Tips for Adding Tomatoes to Your Diet

During this time of year, glorious homegrown tomatoes can be picked up at farmers’ markets. Include them liberally in your green salads, or make a tomato salad by slicing them thick and adding feta, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You could also make a summer-fresh drink by putting tomatoes in a blender and mixing in a little celery and lemon juice.

Tomatoes or tomato products can be included in meals in innumerable ways. To illustrate, spice up an omelet with salsa, and enhance the flavor of soups with chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce. Another idea is to cut off the top of a tomato and scoop out some of the pulp, and then stuff it with chicken or tuna salad. For dinner tonight, you may want to try this recipe for homemade tomato sauce.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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