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Cancers (Basel). 2011 May 11;3(2):2333-57. doi: 10.3390/cancers3022333.

Tomato lycopene and lung cancer prevention: from experimental to human studies.

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Institute of General Pathology, School of Medicine, Catholic University, L. Go F. Vito, Rome 1 00168, Italy.


Increasing evidence suggests that tomato lycopene may be preventive against the formation and the development of lung cancer. Experimental studies demonstrated that lycopene may inhibit the growth of several cultured lung cancer cells and prevent lung tumorigenesis in animal models through various mechanisms, including a modulation of redox status, cell cycle arrest and/or apoptosis induction, a regulation of growth factor signaling, changes in cell growth-related enzymes, an enhancement of gap junction communication and a prevention of smoke-induced inflammation. In addition, lycopene also inhibited cell invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis. Several lycopene metabolites have been identified, raising the question as to whether the preventive effects of lycopene on cancer risk is, at least in part, due to its metabolites. Despite these promising reports, it is difficult at the moment to directly relate available experimental data to human pathophysiology. More well controlled clinical intervention trials are needed to further clarify the exact role of lycopene in the prevention of lung cancer cell growth. Such studies should take into consideration subject selection, specific markers of analysis, the levels of carotenoids being tested, metabolism and isomerization of lycopene, interaction with other bioactive food components. This article reviews data on the cancer preventive activities of lycopene, possible mechanisms involved, and the relationship between lycopene consumption and human cancer risk.

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