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Lycopene Linked to Reduction in Uterine Fibroid Tumors

Lycopene, the antioxidant found in tomatoes that gives them their red color, may be able to reduce the size and incidence of fibroid tumors based on an animal study presented at the annual Experimental Biology meeting held in Washington D.C. in April, 2004. Fibroid tumors, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, are benign tumors of the uterus that affect millions of women.

STUDY FINDINGS: Researchers from Firat University in Turkey, the University of Maryland and the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit supplemented the basic diet of Japanese quails with either 100 mg or 200 mg lycopene per kg of food. After 10 months, the supplemented quails had fewer leiomyomas compared to a control group fed only the basic diet (10 percent versus 20 percent). In addition, the average diameter of the tumors was significantly smaller in the supplemented groups. The size of the tumors in the group supplemented with 200 mg lycopene was also significantly smaller than those in the group supplemented with 100 mg, indicating a dose response effect of lycopene on the size of the tumors.

Japanese quails are thought to be an excellent model for studying fibroid tumors since, as in humans, the tumors occur spontaneously in the birds' oviduct, an organ similar to the human uterus. Most other animal studies require introduction of the tumors into the species.

In the present study, lycopene supplementation also appeared to have a positive effect on the birds' serum concentrations of vitamins C, E and A , homocysteine and malondialdehyde (MDA). Previous studies have shown that serum levels of these vitamins decrease in patients with uterine cervical cancers and that biomarkers of oxidative stress, such as homocysteine in the blood and MDA in the blood and liver, increase. After lycopene supplementation, however, the vitamin levels of the supplemented birds increased and the levels of homocysteine and MDA decreased. The researchers also measured tissue concentrations of the bcl-2 and bax, two proteins that are associated with cell proliferation and cell destruction of tumors. There were no significant differences in levels of these proteins among the study groups.

RELATED INFORMATION: Fibroid tumors are growths that arise from the muscle cells of the uterus that occur in approximately 20 to 25 percent of all women but are even more common in women over the age of 35. Although benign, fibroids can cause heavy bleeding and pain during menstruation, pelvic pain, miscarriage and infertility. Treatments usually involve in the surgical removal of the tumors or, in some cases, hysterectomy.2 Between 1980 and 1993, an estimated 8.6 million women above the age of 15 in the United States had a hysterectomy. The diagnosis most often associated with hysterectomy was uterine leiomyoma; during 1988-1993, this diagnosis accounted for 62 percent of hysterectomies among black women, 29 percent among white women, and 45 percent among women of other races.3

Several observational and clinical studies have demonstrated that lycopene supplementation may prevent or slow the progression of certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer. In the first clinical intervention trial to use lycopene supplements, one of the authors of the present study, Omer Kucuk, MD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute, demonstrated that prostate cancer patients who were given 15 mg of lycopene supplements twice reduced the spread of their cancer.1


Experimental Biology is the annual scientific conference of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, a coalition of societies involved in the study of biomedical and life sciences.

Kucuk O, et al. Phase II randomized clinical trial of lycopene supplementation before radical prostatectomy. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 10(8):861-868, August 2001.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1999
Lepine LA, Hillis SD, Marchbanks PA, Koonin LM, Morrow B, Kieke BA, Wilcox LS. Hysterectomy surveillance--United States, 1980-1993. MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 1997; 46(4):1-15.

This information is provided by the Vitamin Nutrition Information Service (VNIS). The VNIS is funded by DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. and was founded in 1979 as a source of accurate and credible vitamin information for health professionals, educators and communicators. The VNIS monitors and disseminates vitamin research, sponsors professional symposia on current vitamin topics and generates materials to educate professionals about the roles of vitamins in health.

Key concepts: lycopene, tomato, uterine fibroid tumors