Lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer

Author(s): Ilic D, Forbes KM, Hassed C


Background:Prostate cancer is a common cause of death in developed countries, yet the benefits of screening for prostate cancer still remain controversial. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test result greater than 4 ng/mL (nanograms/millilitre) has commonly been used as the cut-off level for seeking further tests to diagnose the presence (or absence) of prostate cancer. An increase in PSA levels may not necessarily be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, as PSA levels may also be increased in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis. Despite the uncertainty of the net benefit of early detection and treatment, safe and effective methods to prevent prostate cancer are of value. Consumers, seeking greater involvement in their healthcare, are increasingly turning to lifestyle modification and complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) to maintain their health and prevent disease. Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family, which is found abundantly in tomatoes, tomato-based products, strawberries, and watermelon. It has been hypothesised that lycopene is a strong antioxidant, which may lower the risk of cancer (including prostate cancer) in people who have diets rich in lycopene.

Objectives:To determine whether lycopene reduces the incidence of prostate cancer and prostate cancer-specific mortality. Secondary objectives include changes in PSA levels, prostate symptoms and the nature of adverse events associated with lycopene use.

Search methods:Electronic searches were conducted across MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) databases. No language or other limitations were imposed.

Selection criteria:Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that investigated the use of lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer were eligible for inclusion in this review.

Data collection and analysis:A search of electronic databases, performed in August 2011, identified 64 citations. All articles were selected for full-text review. From these citations, three studies were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria. Handsearching did not provide any additional studies.

Main results:Three RCTs, with a total of 154 participants were included in this review. None of the studies reported data on prostate cancer mortality. All of the included studies differed with respect to design, participants included and allocation of lycopene. This clinical heterogeneity limits the value on the pooled estimated of the meta-analyses. The methodological quality of two of the three included studies was assessed as posing a 'high' risk of bias. Meta-analysis indicated no statistical difference in PSA levels between men randomised to receive lycopene and the comparison group (MD (mean difference) -0.34, 95% CI (confidence interval) -2.01, 1.32). Only one study reported incidence of prostate cancer (10% in the lycopene group versus 30% in control group). The level of lycopene was also not statistically different in men randomised to receive lycopene and the comparison group (MD 0.39 µg/mL (micrograms/millilitre), 95% CI -0.19, 0.98). No other meta-analyses were possible since other outcomes assessed only had one study contributing data.

Authors' conclusions:Given that only three RCTs were included in this systematic review, and the high risk of bias in two of the three studies, there is insufficient evidence to either support, or refute, the use of lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer. Similarly, there is no robust evidence from RCTs to identify the impact of lycopene consumption upon the incidence of prostate cancer, prostate symptoms, PSA levels or adverse events.

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