Lycopene may not really workBased on positive studies, many clinicians have been advising men to boost the levels of lycopene in their diet because it could lower their risk for prostate cancer or its recurrence. But a new study casts doubt on that notion.

Researchers report that lycopene does not effectively prevent prostate cancer. In fact, they found an association between beta carotene, an antioxidant related to lycopene, and an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer.

The new data were derived from an ongoing trial of 28,000 men enrolled in a cancer screening trial.The data showed no significant difference between those who had prostate cancer and those who did not in relation to the blood concentration of lycopene.

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“It is disappointing, since lycopene might have offered a simple way to lower prostate cancer risk for men concerned about this common disease,” said investigator Ulrike Peters, PhD, MPH, at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Unfortunately, this easy answer just does not work.”

Dr. Peters said the unexpected observation could have been due to chance, but “beta carotene is already known to increase risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease in smokers. I’m not advising against eating carrots and leafy vegetables, but I would be cautious about taking beta carotene supplements, particularly at high doses.”