Lycopene, a potent antioxidant that is rich in bright red carotenoid pigment. It gives tomatoes its rich red color. Fruits that contain a large amount of Lycopene include apricots, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit, and guava. It is also synthesized by many other plants and microorganisms, however, it cannot by synthesized by the human body. The only way of obtaining this antioxidant is from consuming it. Fortunately, in America, Lycopene is prevalent in our diets. Cooked tomatoes consumed with fats and oils provides the greatest source of this carotenoid. Fats and oils allows for greater absorption in the intestinal tract. Proponents of the Lycopene benefits believe that it lowers the risk of many forms of cancer. They also believe it to be beneficial in the anti-wrinkle age by protecting skin. There are many studies going on at this time examining the effects of Lycopene on humans. Previous epidemiology studies on the cancer benefits in mice have had promising outcomes, however, cancer in mice is very different than cancer in humans. Most of all studies in humans have been observational, and have been deemed inconclusive. Well designed clinical trials are needed for definitive results.

As far as cancer studies, according to those with diets rich in tomato derived Lycopene appear to have lower risk of developing certain types of cancer such as lung, prostate, and stomach cancer. Lycopene is the most efficient antioxidant in attacking free radicals in the lung tissue. It is also valuable in protecting lymphocytes from the N02 damage associated with lung cancer. Furthermore, it can also decrease the oxidative effects caused by pylori infections in the stomach. Animal study showed that increased intake of Lycopene over long periods of time greatly suppressed breast and brain tumor growths in mice. Lycopene has been discussed on for its many benefits and possible risk reduction of some cancers including breast cancer. Lycopene derived from tomatoes may decrease cancer by activating special cancer preventative enzymes thus inhibiting cancer growth. Activation of other special enzymes like the phase II detoxification enzymes remove carcinogens from the cells. It can also alter vascular endothelium growth factor levels therefore decrease damage to DNA. There has been some randomized clinical trial examining the benefits of Lycopene with prostate cancer, but the results are inconclusive. Because of its potent antioxidant effects caution should be used if taking Lycopene supplement while receiving chemotherapy and radiation. It possesses the potential to interfere with this course of therapy.

There are no known adverse effects of ingesting a normal amount of Lycopene. Caution should be used by cancer patients because of its ability to interfere with chemo. An over consumption of this antioxidant can lead to a condition known as lycopenodermia. This condition is characterized as a reddish orange discoloration of the skin. It is a harmless skin condition that is reversible. Intestinal side effects such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting have been reported with increased intake of Lycopene supplements.