12 January - 20 June 2016

Can consuming tomatoes protect against skin cancer?

According to a mouse study by The Ohio State University, daily tomato consumption appears to reduce the development of skin tumours by half in male mice. The study appearing in the journal Scientific Reports notes that previous human clinical data has found that “continued consumption of tomato pastes can dampen UV-induced skin erythema (i.e. sunburn).” It is thought that carotenoids, found in tomatoes, are responsible as they act as photo-protectants, and after consumption carotenoids are deposited in the skin of human.

According to a mouse study by The Ohio State University, daily tomato consumption appears to reduce the development of skin tumours by half in male mice.   The study appearing in the journal Scientific Reports notes that previous human clinical data has found that “continued consumption of tomato pastes can dampen UV-induced skin erythema (i.e. sunburn).”  It is thought that carotenoids, found in tomatoes, are responsible as they act as photo-protectants, and after consumption carotenoids are deposited in the skin of human. 

Lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes, has been suggested to be the most effective compound in tomatoes at preventing redness after UV exposure.  Although when comparing dietary consumption of the whole tomato, compared with a synthesised supplement, the whole tomatoes appeared to be more effective, suggesting that other phytochemicals in tomatoes may contribute to the effect.

Using four-week-old male and female hairless mice, Oberyszyn et al. fed them for 35 weeks, either a control diet (up to 5 g food/day for male and 4 g food/day female), a 10% tangerine tomato powder diet, or a 10% red tomato powder diet. The researchers analysed the carotenoid profile of the tomato diets and found that “total lycopene was approximately three time higher in the red tomato diet compared to the tangerine diet” although over all the “tangerine tomato diet had approximately a 20% higher level of total carotenoids compared to the red diet.” 

The control mice were fed the same diet but not exposed to UV.  At week 11 through to week 20 the mice were exposed to a dose of UV, at a dose required to induce reddening of the skin 24 hours after exposure, three times weekly on non-consecutive days.  To measure inflammatory response and oedema Oberyszyn et al. measured skin fold thickness (a rough measurement of inflammatory response) 48 hours after exposure.  They also measured carotenoid levels in the blood and skin, and analysed tumours at the end of the intervention. 

The scientists report that whilst they found no significance difference in the amount of tumours for the female mice on the different diets, previous studies have shown that male mice develop tumours earlier after UV exposure and that their tumours are more numerous, larger and more aggressive than females.   The team state that “tumour number was significantly lower in male mice consuming red tomato diets or pooled tomato diet compared to the controls”  The mice fed the tangerine diet had higher levels of lycopene in the skin even though the tangerine diet contains lower amount than red tomatoes.  The study notes that “since there was approximately 32 time less total lycopene delivered in tangerine tomato diet, which still resulted in similar plasma lycopene levels, lycopene from tangerine tomatoes appear to be considerably more bioavailable compared to red tomatoes.”

In conclusion, the authors reiterate their findings and suggest that “tomato alkaloids, including tomatidine, have also been documented as present in the skin of animals consuming tomato-containing diet suggesting they may be compounds responsible for the tumour number decrease noted in this study”. 

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory can quantify lycopene in tomato-based products. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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