In fruits like tomatoes or apricots, the red pigment is formed by the carotenoid called Lycopene. It is also found in small amounts in watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes are usually the most used products in studying the effects of lycopene on cancer. For maximum absorption, it is recommended that tomatoes are consumed with some amount of dietary fat.

Lycopene and Cancer

Many laboratory experiments have confirmed the following benefits of lycopene in the treatment of cancer: 

  • It acts as an antioxidant affecting the way cells grow and communicate with each other. However, beta-carotene is more powerful than lycopene.
  • It stops cancer cells from growing
  • Prevents DNA damage
  • Enhances enzymes that break down cancer-causing compounds
  • Decreases the risk of cancer

Key Points

  • Lycopene is a carotenoid, a natural pigment made by plants and microorganisms.
  • The main sources of lycopene in western diets are tomatoes and tomato products. It is also available as a supplement.
  • Lycopene is used as an antioxidant.
  • Lycopene may enhance effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs.
  • Lycopene is considered safe and is generally well tolerated but may interact with alcohol.
  • No optimal dose in cancer prevention or treatment has been established.


  • In a 2013 study, it was found that consuming large amounts of tomato products might reduce the risk of gastric cancer.
  • In animal studies, lycopene showed inhibition in the growth and proliferation of cancer cells in colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, and prostate cancer. Further, it also showed a delay in progression of cancer cells in endometrial cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, mammary gland cancer, and prostate cancer


  • These natural products have high lycopene content:
    • Tomatoes (cooked)
    • Guava
    • Watermelon
    • Papaya
    • Grapefruit
    • Red Bell Peppers (Cooked)
    • Red or Purple Cabbage
    • Mango
    • Carrots
  • Zenith Nutrition Lycopene 10000 – 120 Capsules – Amazon Link
  • Healthvit Lycopene 25 mg – 60 Tablets – Amazon Link

References & More Information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. How Lycopene Helps Protect against Cancer. Viewed September 20, 2018.
  4. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. About Herbs: Lycopene. December 12, 2017. Viewed September 20, 2018.
  5. Giovannuccci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999;91:317-331.
  6. Joseph R. Cronin. The Biochemistry of Alternative Medicine: Lycopene. The Powerful Antioxidant That Makes Tomatoes Red. Published Online:19 Mar 2009.
  7. Yang T, Yang X, Wang X, Wang Y, Song Z. The role of tomato products and lycopene in the prevention of gastric cancer: a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Med Hypotheses. 2013 Apr;80(4):383-8.
  8. Carini F, David S et al. Colorectal cancer: an update on the effects of lycopene on tumor progression and cell proliferation. Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents. 2017 Jul-Sep;31(3):769-774
  9. Aghajanpour M, Nazer MR et al. Functional foods and their role in cancer prevention and health promotion: a comprehensive review. American Journal of Cancer Research. 2017 Apr 1;7(4):740-769
  10. Daisy Whitbread, MScN. Top 10 Foods Highest in Lycopene. My Food Data. Updated: February 15th, 2018
  11. Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
  12. Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing
  13. Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
  14. Raymond Chang, MD: Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail
  15. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health: PDQ® Cancer Information Summaries

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