There is no strong link between eating lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color, and a reduced risk of certain cancers, the US government's Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.
The FDA's review, which appears in the July 10 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, refutes numerous studies which have pointed to a link between ingesting lycopene and cutting cancer risk.
The "analysis found no credible evidence that lycopene, either in food or in a dietary supplement, was associated with reduced risk of any of the cancers evaluated," according to chief researcher Claudine Kavanaugh.
The review "found no evidence that tomatoes reduced the risk of lung, colorectal, breast, cervical or endometrial cancer."
However, the report did point to "very limited evidence for associations between tomato consumption and reduced risk of prostate, ovarian, gastric and pancreatic cancers."
Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health said in an accompanying editorial that the field of research remains promising, even if it is too early to point to a definitive relationship between consuming lycopene and lowering the risk of some cancers.
"Although it may be premature to espouse increased consumption of tomato sauce or lycopene for prostate cancer provention, this area of research remains promising," Giovannucci said.
The FDA undertook the review of 145 studies after a coalition of tomato-growers and tomato-product processors asked permission to include label information about the anti-cancer benefits of tomatoes.