Written by Gabriele Dennert and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated July 26, 2013


Does it work?

This summary is currently (April 2016) being updated, the version published here was last updated in July 2013. 

Two systematic reviews of lycopene for prevention 19 and treatment 23 of prostate cancer are available. No further studies have been identified that investigated the use of lycopene alone for the prevention or treatment of other cancers.

Cancer prevention

Systematic review

A Cochrane systematic review concluded that ‘there is insufficient evidence to either support, or refute, the use of lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer”.19:p.2

The review identified three RCTs investigating lycopene for prostate cancer prevention.20-22 Two RCTs used prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels as surrogate parameters for prostate cancer development but only one study 20 assessed the incidence of prostate cancer. The latter RCT reported a lower rate of prostate cancer (10% in the lycopene group versus 30% in the comparison group) but was very small (40 participants) and considered to be of unclear risk of bias by the review authors.

Treatment of cancer patients

Systematic reviews

Haseen and colleagues (2009) identified eight intervention studies for their systematic review of lycopene supplementation in men with prostate cancer.23 Two of them were RCTs 24,25, one was a non-randomized clinical trial 26 and five were uncontrolled intervention studies.27-31
All studies reported on changes of PSA level as the surrogate parameter for prostate cancer progression. Only one RCT 24 investigated clinical outcomes: 54 men with metastasized prostate cancer were randomized to orchidectomy or orchidectomy plus lycopene (4 mg/day). After two years, clinical response of bone metastases (as measured in bone scan) and overall survival were higher in the lycopene plus orchiectomy group, suggesting a beneficial effect of lycopene.

However, due to shortcomings in methods and reporting of this trial, these findings need to be replicated in larger RCTs before any generalized recommendations for men with advanced prostate cancer can been made. Moreover, as stated by the reviewers, ‘orchidectomy is now rarely performed in Western countries as a prostate cancer treatment and it is unclear whether the results of this study can be generalized to patients receiving medical castration therapy.’23:p.329

In summary, reviewers concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to recommend the use of lycopene supplements in routine care for prostate cancer patients.

Citation Gabriele Dennert, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Lycopene [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Lycopene. July 26, 2013.


  1. Diener RM, Christian MS. Lycopene Overview: What It Is and What It Does. In: VR Preedy, RR Watson (Eds.): Lycopene : nutritional, medicinal and therapeutic properties. Enfield: Science Publishers. 2008; 3-16.
  2. Rao AV, Rao LG. Carotenoids and human health. Pharmacol Res. 2007; 55(3): 207–16. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.012.
  3. Basu A, Imrhan V. Tomatoes versus lycopene in oxidative stress and carcinogenesis: conclusions from clinical trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007; 61: 295-303.
  4. Ross AB, Vuong LT, Ruckle J, Synal HA, Schulze-König T, Wertz K, Rümbeli R, Liberman RG, Skipper PL, Tannenbaum SR, Bourgeois A, Guy PA, Enslen M, Nielsen ILF, Kochhar S, Richelle M, Fay LB, Williamson G. Lycopene bioavailability and metabolism in humans: an accelerator mass spectrometry study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 93:1263–73.
  5. Schunck CA. The Xanthophyll Group of Yellow Colouring Matters. Proc R Soc Lond. 1903; 72(477-486): 165-176. doi: 10.1098/rspl.1903.0035.
  6. Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999; 91: 317-331.
  7. Michaud DS, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, Speizer FE, Willett WC, Giovanucci E. Intake of specific carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in 2 prospective US cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 72: 990-997.
  8. Cramer DW, Kuper H, Harlow BL, Titus-Ernstoff L. Carotenoids, antioxidants and ovarian cancer risk in pre- and postmenopausal women.Int J Cancer 2001; 94: 128-134.
  9. Slattery ML, Benson J, Curtin K, Ma KN, Schaeffer D, Potter JD. Carotenoids and colon cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71: 575-582.
  10. Sesso HD, Buring JE, Zhang SM, Norkus EP, Gaziano JM. Dietary and plasma lycopene and the risk of breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2005; 14: 1074-1081.
  11. Mein JR, Lian F, Wang X-D. Biological activity of lycopene metabolites: implications for cancer prevention. Nutr Rev. 2008; 66(12): 667–683. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00120.x
  12. van Breemen,RB, Sharifi R, Viana M, Pajkovic N, Zhu D, Yuan L, Yang Y, Bowen PE, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakid M. Antioxidant effects of lycopene in African American Men with Prostate Cancer or Benign Prostate Hyperplasia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Cancer Prev Res. 2001; 4: 711-718.
  13. Vrieling A, Voskuil DW, Bonfrer JM, Korse CM, van Doorn J, Cats A, Depla AC, Timmer R, Witteman BJ, van Leewen FE, van´t Veer LJ, Rookus MA, Kampman E. Lycopene supplementation elevates circulating insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 and -2 concentrations in persons at greater risk of colorectal cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86: 1456-1462.
  14. Ford NA, Engelmann Moran N, Smith JW, Clinton SK, Erdman JW (Jr.). An interaction between carotene-15,15´-monooxygenase expression and consumption of a tomato or lycopene-containing diet impacts serum and testicular testosterone. Internatl J Cancer. 2012; 131: E143-E148.
  15. Anjos Ferreira AL, Russell RM, Rocha N, Placido Ladeira MS, Favero Salvadori DM, Oliveira Nascimento MC, Matsui M, Carvalho FA, Tang G, Matsubara LS, Matsubara BB. Effect of lycopene on doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity: an echocardiographic, histological and morphometrical assessment. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007;101:16-24.
  16. Sahin K, Sahin N, Kucuk O. Lycopene and Chemotherapy Toxicity. Nutr Cancer. 2010; 62: 988-995.
  17. Burgess LC, Rice E, Fischer T, Seeking JR, Burgess TP, Sticka SJ, Klatt K. Lycopene has limited effect on cell proliferation in only two of seven human cell lines (both cancerous and noncancerous) in an in vitro system with doses across the physiological range. Toxicol in Vitro. 2008; 22: 1297-1300.
  18. Boon H, Westlake K, Stewart M, Gray R, Fleshner N, Gavin A, Brown JB, Goel V. Use of Complementary/Alternative Medicine by Men Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer: Prevalence and Characteristics. Urology. 2003; 62: 849-853.
  19. Ilic D, Forbes KM, Hassed C. Lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD008007. DOI: 0.1002/14651858.CD008007.pub2.
  20. Mohanty N, Saxena S, Singh U, Goyal N, Arora R. Lycopene as a chemopreventive agent in the treatment of high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia. UrologicOncology: Seminars and Original Investigations 2005;23:383–385.
  21. Bunker C, McDonald A, Evans R, de la Rosa N, Boumosleh J, Patrick A. A randomized trial of lycopene supplementation in Tobago men with high prostate cancer risk. Nutrition and Cancer 2007; 57:130–137.
  22. Schwarz S, Obermuller-Jevic U, Hellmis E, Koch W, Jacobi G, Biesalski H. Lycopene inhibits disease progression in patients with Benign Prostate Hyperplasia. The Journal of Nutrition and Disease 2008; 138: 49–53.
  23. Haseen F, Cantwell MM, O´Sullivan JM, Murray LJ. Is there a benefit from lycopene supplementation in men with prostate cancer? A systematic review. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2009; 12: 325-332.
  24. Ansari MS, Gupta NP. A comparison of lycopene and orchidectomy vs orchidectomy alone in the management of advanced prostate cancer. BJU Int. 2003; 92: 375-378.
  25. Kucuk O, Sarkar FH, Sark W, Djuric Z, Pollak MN, Khachik F, Li YW, Banerjee M, Grignon D, Bertram JS, Crissman JD, Pontes EJ, Wood DP. Phase II randomized clinical trial of lycopene supplementation before radical prostatectomy. Cancer Epidem Biomarker Prev. 2001; 10: 861-868.
  26. Kim HS, Bowen P, Chen L, Duncan C, Ghosh L, Sharifi R, Christoph K. Effects of tomato sauce consumption on apoptotic cell death in prostate benign hyperplasia and carcinoma. Nutr Cancer. 2003; 47: 40-47.
  27. Ansari MS, Gupta NP. Lycopene: a novel drug therapy in hormone refractory metastatic prostate cancer. Urol Oncol. 2004; 22: 415-20.
  28. Barber NJ, Zhang X, Zhu G, Pramanik R, Barber JA, Martin FL, Morris JD, Muir GH. Lycopene inhibits DNA synthesis in primary prostate epithelial cells in vitro and its administration is associated with a reduced prostate-specific antigen velocity in a phase II clinical study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2006; 9:407-13.
  29. Chen L, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Duncan C, Sharifi R, Ghosh L, van Breemen R, Ashton D, Bowen PE. Oxidative DNA damage in ate cancer patients consuming tomato sauce-based entrees as a whole-food intervention. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001; 93:1872-1879.
  30. Jatoi A, Burch P, Hillman D, Vanyo JM, Dakhil S, Nikcevich D, Rowland K, Morton R, Flynn PJ, Young C, Tan W; North Central Cancer Treatment Group. A tomato-based, lycopene-containing intervention for androgen-independent prostate cancer: results of a Phase II study from the North Central Cancer Treatment Group. Urology. 2007; 69: 289-294.
  31. Clark PE, Hall MC, Borden LS Jr, Miller AA, Hu JJ, Lee WR, Stindt D, D'Agostino R Jr, Lovato J, Harmon M, Torti FM. Phase I-II prospective dose-escalating trial of lycopene in patients with biochemical relapse of prostate cancer after definitive local therapy. Urology. 2006; 67: 1257-1261.
  32. Shao A, Hatchcock JN. Risk Assessment of Lycopene. In: VR Preedy, RR Watson (Eds.): Lycopene : nutritional, medicinal and therapeutic properties. Enfield: Science Publishers. 2008; 83-104.
  33. Banerjee S, Jeyaseelan S, Guleria R.: Trial of lycopene to prevent pre-eclampsia in healthy primigravidas: results show some adverse effects. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2009 Jun;35(3):477-482.
  34. Veeramachaneni S, Ausman LM, Choi SW, Russell RM, Wang XD. High dose lycopene supplementation increases hepatic cytochrome P4502E1 protein and inflammation in alcohol-fed rats. J Nutr. 2008;138:1329-1335.
  35. Sunaga K, Ohkawa K, Nakamura K, Ohkubo A, Harada S, Tsuda T. Mechanism-based inhibition of recombinant human cytochrome P450 3A4 by tomato juice extract. Biol Pharm Bull. 2012; 35:329-334.
  36. Feifer AH, Fleshner NE, Klotz L. Analytical accuracy and reliability of commonly used nutritional supplements in prostate disease. J Urol. 2002;168:150-154.
  37. Linus Pauling Institute. Carotenoids. Alpha-Carotene, Beta-Carotene, Beta-Cryptoxanthin, Lycopene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/carotenoids/ [last access 15/11/2012]
  38. Sahin K, Sahin N, Kucuk O. Lycepene and chemotherapy toxicity. Nutr Cancer 2010; 62(7): 988-95.