Guys, Go Red to Fight Prostate Cancer!

By Sharon Palmer, RD


September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to step up the fight against prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S.  An estimated 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and more than 32,000 men will die from it.  According to the National Cancer Institute, you can help fend off prostate cancer by avoiding smoking, losing weight, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising.  In addition, it’s important for men to be aware of the benefits of early detection and treatment for prostate cancer.

Tomato Products’ Anti-Cancer Nutrients

When it comes to diet, there’s one food that seems to be among the most promising in protecting men against prostate cancer—tomatoes.  Tomato products contain an arsenal of nutrients that may be behind their cancer-protective benefits.  They are naturally rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, potassium and carotenoids—which are powerful antioxidants.  The most abundant carotenoid in tomato products is lycopene, the pigment responsible for the deep red color of ripe tomatoes.  Tomato products—the second most popular vegetable in the country—account for more than 80 percent of the lycopene in the American diet.  An Ohio State University study found that single daily servings of processed tomato products produce significant increases in lycopene concentrations in adults.  And the lycopene from processed tomatoes versus fresh tomatoes is more bioavailable, because processing breaks down the tomato cell matrix, resulting in greater absorption of lypopene.

Tomatoes Take on Prostate Cancer

A number of studies have explored the prostate cancer-protective benefits of tomato products and lycopene.  Researchers from Montreal conducted a meta-analysis that included 11 case-control studies and 10 cohort studies or nested case-control studies on the use of tomato, tomato products, or lycopene.  Compared with nonfrequent users of tomato products, consumers of high amounts of raw tomatoes had an 11% reduced risk of prostate cancer, and those with a high intake of cooked tomato products experienced a 19% reduced risk.  And in the most comprehensive scientific analysis of cancer prevention and causation ever undertaken, an expert panel of scientists for the American Institute of Cancer Research reviewed over 4,000 trials, studies, and reports in order to create the organization’s Second Expert Report –  Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.  The report notes that there is a substantial amount of evidence on tomato products, and that food containing lycopene probably does protect against cancer.  In particular, foods containing lycopene are listed as providing a convincing decreased risk for prostate cancer.

In fact, tomato products show such promise in battling prostate cancer that a research team led by John Erdman, PhD of the University of Illinois recently received a $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to trace how tomato carotenoids help to reduce risk of prostate cancer in humans. This study will help scientists better understand how tomato carotenoids are absorbed and metabolized in the body in order to protect against prostate cancer.

Go Red!

So, this September, kick-start the healthy habit of painting your plate red.  Stock your pantry with tomato products such as canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa, tomato juice, and tomato soup.  Put a variety of tomato-based dishes on the menu, including lasagna, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chicken cacciatore, pizza, pasta dishes, curries, stews, and soups.  Try one of my family’s favorite recipes for Easy Goat Cheese Vegetable Lasagna (check out a cooking demonstration of this recipe at To learn more about health benefits, cooking tips and recipes featuring tomato products, visit

Easy Goat Cheese Vegetable Lasagna
1 jar (25 ounces) marinara sauce
5 ounces goat cheese with herbs
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp chopped basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp black pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
½ pound lasagna noodles, dried
1 jar (12 ounces) roasted yellow and red peppers, drained, chopped
3 cups sliced summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)
1 cup shredded cheddar/Monterrey jack blend cheese
1. In a large baking dish, pour a small amount (about ¼ cup) of marinara sauce in the bottom and spread out.
2. Whisk together goat cheese, eggs, milk, and seasonings in a small bowl until combined.
3. Layer lasagna noodles, 1 cup squash, 1/3 of goat cheese mixture, 1 cup marinara sauce, and 1/3 cup shredded cheese. Repeat layers three more time.
4. Cover with foil or lid and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes until pasta is tender.

Sharon Palmer, RD is a registered dietitian and food and nutrition writer located in Southern California.  Visit her website at