A large European study has been done on micronutrients, and there were mixed results, with the exception of the Lycopene portion of the study. The work showed that increased blood levels of this tomato micronutrient may reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer by 60 per cent.
This research was reported on in the current issue (Volume 86, Pages 672-681) of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers taking part in this "European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition" report say this is the largest study to date of plasma carotenoids, retinol, and tocopherols in the area of prostate cancer risk.
"Overall, we observed no significant associations between plasma micronutrient concentrations and prostate cancer risk," wrote one of the main authors. However, the team did observe a significant connection between localized and advanced prostate cancer with lycopene and for the sum of these various micronutrients, both of which were significantly associated with a reduction in risk of advanced prostate cancer.
For years now, the evidence has suggested that tomato-based foods can protect men from prostate cancer. As an example, one study found that men eating 4-5 tomato based-dishes per week were 25 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer compared to men eating the occasional tomato.
This new study followed 137,001 men from eight European countries for an average of 6 years. After adjusting the results to account for potentially confounding factors, the researchers reported no reduction in overall prostate cancer risk for the micronutrients, which included vitamin A, selected carotenoids, lycopene, and alpha- and gamma-tocopherols, which are different forms of vitamin E.
However, when they studied only advanced prostate cancer, or nearly one-third of their cases, significant protective associations were observed. In fact, the highest lycopene levels were linked to a 60% reduction, and total micronutrients were linked to a 65 per cent reduction in advanced prostate cancer risk. In reading about this study, I found it quite interesting how the numbers change when comparing protection against prostate cancer with overall risk reduction for advanced cancer. It seems that lycopene and other micronutrients can be considered very valuable for people in the latter category!