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

Lycopene

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.

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