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Cancer Overview
Diet & Nutrition
Kidney Cancer

Tomatoes and Other Lycopene-Rich Foods Can Fight Kidney Cancer

The natural antioxidant lycopene, found in tomatoes, watermelon and papaya, could lower the risk of a kind of kidney cancer in postmenopausal women.

A higher intake by postmenopausal women of the natural antioxidant lycopene, found in foods like tomatoes, watermelon and papaya, may lower the risk of renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.

A team led by Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Oncology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, reached that conclusion after study data from 96,196 women nationwide and in Detroit who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative from 1993 to 1998. The women were followed through July 2013 and were followed through July 2013 by several sites, including Wayne State University.

“We were surprised to observe a protective effect of lycopene, as several previous studies in other populations did not detect a similar relationship,” Bock said.

The results were published in the journal Cancer.

The investigators found that women who ingested more lycopene had a 39 percent lower risk of renal cell carcinoma than those who reported a lower intake of lycopene.

“Kidney cancer is a relatively rare cancer, and so focusing only on reducing risk of this disease would be short-sighted,” Bock said. “Rather, a diet focused on one’s own personal risk factors, such as family history, would be more beneficial.”

Experts have recommended a low-salt diet for women who are at risk of hypertension, a major risk factor in kidney cancer. Now, eating more lycopene can be an additional protective measure.

“Lycopene from food sources has also been associated with decreased risk of breast and prostate cancers, and a diet high in vegetables and fruits are generally well-accepted for promoting good health,” Bock said.

Good sources of lycopene include tomatoes and tomato-based products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava and papaya. But Bock suggested consulting a doctor before taking a lycopene supplement.

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