Tomatoes Protect Women at Risk for Breast Cancer
Tomatoes are widely known for their rich antioxidant content, which may help reduce the risk of cancer. Prostate cancer is the best-researched type of cancer in relationship to tomato intake, but women can enjoy their benefits as well. A new study links tomato consumption to a lowered risk of breast cancer in at-risk postmenopausal women.
Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center studied the effects of a tomato-rich diet in a group of 70 postmenopausal women. For ten weeks, the women ate tomato products containing at least 25 milligrams of lycopene daily. Lycopene is one of the primary phytochemicals found in tomatoes which possesses antioxidant and antiproliferative properties, suggesting their consumption leads to a lowered risk of cancer.
The women experienced a 9% increased level of adiponectin, a hormone involved in regulating blood sugar and fat levels. Higher levels of fatty acids can lead to resistance to insulin which is associated with the development of certain cancers, including breast cancer. The effect was most pronounced in women who were currently of healthy weight, indicating a possible “window of opportunity.”
“The advantages of eating plenty of tomatoes and tomato-based products, even for a short period, were clearly evident in our findings,” said the study’s first author, Adana Llanos, PhD, MPH, who is now an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Rutgers University.
“Eating fruits and vegetables, which are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals such as lycopene, conveys significant benefits. Based on this data, we believe regular consumption of at least the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables would promote breast cancer prevention in an at-risk population.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women with more than 200,000 women being diagnosed in 2010 (the most recent year numbers currently available.) Risk factors associated with a greater incidence of disease include:
• Aging – the risk increases as you get older.
• Genetics – About 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary
• Race and Ethnicity – Overall, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, however, African-American women are more likely to die from the disease.