Lycopene Supplements Found to Reduce Cancer-Causing Cell Count

PARSIPPANY, N.J., Jan 06, 2005 -- A study published in the Fall issue of Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that lycopene supplements decreased the proliferation of cancer cells at certain intervals of the study.


Many studies on cancer now test apoptosis, the natural elimination of harmful cancer-causing cells. In this study, researchers treated LCNaP human prostate cancer cells with a (Redivivo(tm)) lycopene supplement to determine whether lycopene would induce apoptosis to eliminate the cells or even simply suppress their growth. Treatment included 0.1, 1 and 5 uM doses of lycopene followed by examination after 6, 24, and 48 hours. The scientists also looked for changes in the cells' cycle, to identify any slowing-down or speeding-up of cell growth due to the lycopene.


Researchers saw a 31 percent inhibition in cancerous cell growth in lycopene-treated cells when compared to the placebo-treated cells after 48 hours of treatment with the 1 uM lycopene formulation. The maximum inhibitory effect, however, was seen with the 5 uM dose, at each time interval. Apoptosis was present at the 5 uM formulation at all time points and was heightened during the 24 -- and 48 -- hour treatments. There were no changes seen in the cell cycle of the placebo-treated groups whereas the scientists observed a dramatic 16 percent reduction in cancerous cell presence in the lycopene-treated cells during a significant cell-growth cycle (S-phase).

The results indicate that lycopene supplements decreased the number of cancer cells likely by increasing apoptosis and slowing cancer cell growth cycles. These findings suggest that supplements containing lycopene may have cancer-fighting abilities.


Several scientific studies have shown that men who frequently consume tomato-based products like pizza and pasta sauce have a lower risk for developing prostate cancer than those who eat fewer tomato-based products. Many of these studies have attributed such benefits to the lycopene found in those foods. Drs. Eun-Sun Hwang and Phyllis Bowen at the University of Illinois initiated the present study to isolate the mechanism of action of lycopene from that of other nutrients also found in tomato-based products.

Lycopene is considered one of the most potent antioxidants available in the food supply. Lycopene is a natural plant pigment that provides foods such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava with their natural red hues. Aside from food sources, lycopene is also available as a single-entity dietary supplement, in formulas designed for men, in many one-a-day multivitamins and in some heart health formulations.


Hwang ES, Bowen PE. Cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis be lycopene in LNCaP Human Prostate Cancer Cells. J Med Food 2004: 7(3); 284-289.

This information is provided by the Vitamin & Nutraceuticals Information Service (VNIS). Started in 1979 and supported now by DSM Nutritional Products, Inc., the VNIS is a source of accurate and credible vitamin information for health professionals, educators and communicators. The VNIS monitors and disseminates vitamin research, sponsors professional symposia on current vitamin topics and generates materials to educate professionals about the roles of vitamins in health.

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