Cooking found to aid cancer-fighting tomato
Tomatoes cooked in olive oil are especially protective against prostate cancer, says a University of Hawaii cancer researcher.
Lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, is a carotenoid with anti-cancer benefits, says Dr. John Bertram, with the Cancer Research Center's Natural Products and Cancer Biology Program. When cooked in oil, evidence shows the pigment is more effective and dissolves the lycopene, he said.
Bertram was among Cancer Research Center of Hawaii scientists sharing their findings with the public at a recent Cancer Research Information Day at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Cancer is not inevitable, Bertram said, pointing out that major cancers in the West -- lung, colon, breast and prostate -- are the result of diet and lifestyle.
Colon, breast and prostate cancer are associated with eating red meat, obesity and lack of exercise, and lung cancer is caused primarily by smoking, he said. "Conversely, eating lots of fruits and vegetables is protective."
Tomato-based products lowered cancer rates in prostate cancer studies, Bertram said. Lycopene was found to induce apoptosis, or "programmed cell death," in prostate cells, he said.
Answering questions from a crowd in the medical school auditorium, Bertram said no, pomegranate juice is not a substitute for tomatoes. Lycopene is found only in tomatoes and watermelons, he said.
Tomato extract, canned tomatoes and catsup are more effective than raw tomatoes, but the best thing is cooking tomatoes with oil, he said.
"How about Bloody Marys?" someone asked. "I'll go for that," Bertram said with a laugh.
Also speaking at the annual Cancer Information Day event was Dr. Jonathan Cho, oncology professor in the research center and assistant clinical professor of medicine in the medical school. He said 690 new cases of lung cancer are estimated in Hawaii this year, with 530 deaths.
Smoking and secondhand smoke are among major risk factors, but 10 percent of new cases in the United States are occurring in people who never smoked, more frequently women, Cho said.
He described some new lung cancer treatments but stressed prevention, particularly through tobacco control efforts.
Dr. Carl-Wilhelm Vogel, Cancer Research Center director, said cancer cases in Hawaii are expected to double over the next 25 years as people live longer. "We need to be prepared."
He described plans for a comprehensive new Cancer Research Center and cancer clinic for increased clinical trials, Ewa of the medical school. "This will be a place you and your friends and co-workers touched by cancer will be able to come for cancer care," he said.
Groundbreaking on the 5.5-acre lot was expected by the end of this year, but Vogel acknowledged, "That's probably not realistic."
With ever-rising construction costs, however, he is hoping work will start on the complex in the next 12 months and be completed in two years.
Their business plan estimates the cost at $200 million, he said, but "if it becomes more expensive, we have to think about it."