A study published in the March 6 Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports that regular consumption of tomato sauce and other tomato-based foods lowered men's prostate cancer risk by as much as 36 percent.
Dr. Edward Giovannucci of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, one author of the study, said these most recent findings supported earlier studies centering on the cancer-fighting benefits of high-lycopene foods, such as tomatoes.
"These ... findings add support to the notion that a diet rich in tomatoes and lycopene-containing foods, as well as other fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer," Giovannucci told the Associated Press.
In researching the dietary and health histories of more than 47,000 men aged 40 to 75, scientists found that those who ate a minimum of two meals a week containing tomato products lowered their risk of prostate cancer by 24 to 36 percent. The study was conducted from 1986 to 1998.
Lycopene, an antioxidant, is thought to fight cancer by canceling out cancer-causing oxygen free-radicals.
Dietary questionnaires used in the study examined the consumption of such food items as tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice and pizza. Spaghetti sauce was the most-often consumed tomato product, and, researchers said, it appeared to provide the greatest protection.
Researchers also focused on cooked tomato products, because as heat breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, it is believed to allow greater lycopene absorption by the body.
The study also recommended men eat other foods that are rich in antioxidants as opposed to seeking antioxidants through vitamin pills only.