A diet rich in tomatoes could potentially cut your chances of getting skin cancer by as much as 50%, but only if you’re male.
New research found that a daily intake of the red fruit, could have a significant impact on the potential for halting skin cancer tumours developing in adult mice.
Jessica Cooperstone, co-author, said of the results: “Foods are not drugs, but they can possibly, over the lifetime of consumption, alter the development of certain diseases.”
In the study, at Ohio State University, which was investigating how nutrition can impact cancer risk, mice had 10% of their dietary intake dedicated to tomato powder, for a period of 35 weeks.
After this they were exposed to ultraviolet light in order to induce metastatic changes in their cells.
And those who had the daily intake of dehydrated tomato for several months were found to be 50% less likely to develop the disease, compared to those who had not eaten the powder.
But there were no significant difference in tumours numbers for the female mice in the study. Although it is worth noting that male mice tumours are generally more numerous, larger and more aggressive than their female counterparts.
Tatiana Oberyszyn, senior author, said: “This study showed us that we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventive strategies. What works in men may not always work equally well in women and vice versa.”
The theory as to why tomatoes can provide such protection is that the pigmenting compounds that give tomatoes their colour, may protect skin against UV light damage.
Cooperstone, said: “Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments.”
Previous human clinical trials suggest that eating tomato paste over time can also help dampen sunburn in humans, perhaps thanks to carotenoids from the plants that are deposited in the skin after eating.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common of all cancers. In the UK, more than 100,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year. It affects more men than women and is more common in the elderly.
The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, also known as a rodent ulcer, and accounts for about 75% of skin cancers. Whereas squamous cell carcinoma starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for about 20% of skin cancers.