Lycopene Effective Adjunctive Prostate Cancer Treatment
Men with prostate cancer who take supplemental lycopene in addition to surgical removal of the testicles may experience less active disease, less bone pain, and live longer than those who only have surgical removal of the testicles, according to a new study in British Journal of Urology International (2003;92:375–8). This is exciting news for millions of men who have to undergo aggressive treatment for advanced prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men over the age of 50 years, with more than 200,000 new cases each year in the United States. The cause of prostate cancer, like many other cancers, is unknown; however, some studies suggest alterations in testosterone metabolism may play a role in its development. Prostate cancer is generally slow growing and may not cause any symptoms until late in the disease. Symptoms may include frequent or painful urination, dribbling after urination, sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder, or blood in the urine. The symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of a non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), so men experiencing these symptoms should consult their physician for an accurate diagnosis.
In the new study, 54 men with advanced prostate cancer were randomly assigned to have surgical removal of the testicles (orchidectomy) alone or orchidectomy plus oral supplementation with 4 mg of lycopene a day. Measurements of PSA (a blood marker of prostate cancer activity), bone scans, and urinary flow were taken initially and every three months for two years. Men receiving lycopene started on the day of their surgery.
After six months, PSA had significantly decreased in both groups, indicating a reduction in prostate cancer activity. However, PSA levels in those receiving lycopene were more than 65% lower than in those who did not receive lycopene. After two years, PSA levels in the lycopene treatment group had fallen into the normal range, while those who only underwent surgery still had PSA levels more than twice the upper limit of normal. Urinary symptoms significantly improved in both groups, but better improvement was again observed in the lycopene group. The lycopene group also experienced less bone pain. The survival rates after two years in the lycopene-plus-surgery group and surgery-only groups were 87% and 78%, respectively, a statistically significant difference. No adverse side effects were observed in men taking lycopene.
Lycopene is one of a group of compounds called carotenoids. It is found in high amounts in tomatoes. The findings of this study corroborate the findings of other similar studies examining the effectiveness of lycopene in the treatment of prostate cancer. However, the amount used in the current study (4 mg per day) was substantially less than the amounts used in other studies (30 mg per day). It may also help stimulate the immune system and has been shown to cause cancer cells to die on their own. Although more research is needed to clarify what amount of lycopene is most effective, men with prostate cancer may benefit from taking daily lycopene supplements. Eating one moderately sized tomato a day also provides approximately 4 mg of lycopene. Other tomato products, such as an 8-ounce portion of tomato juice or tomato paste may provide up to 25 mg of lycopene.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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