Tomatoes could help lower the risk of developing prostate cancer, according to new research.

Men who eat at least 10 servings of tomatoes each week lowered their risk of prostate cancer by 18 percent, the study found.

University of Bristol researchers, working with investigators from Cambridge and Oxford, carefully examined the diets and health records of 1,806 men with prostate cancer, aged 50 to 69. They compared this data to information obtained from 12,005 adult males who did not have the disease.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in 233,000 American men each year, and around 30,000 die from the disease. It is the second-most common form of cancer for men in the United States, behind only skin cancer. Roughly 14 percent of American men will be diagnosed with the ailment at some point in their lives. The disease is rare in men younger than 40 years old, but becomes more common in older males. The average age of first diagnosis is 66.

"Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.5 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today," the American Cancer Society reports.

Tomato juice and beans prepared with the fruit were found to be the most effective at preventing the disease.

Lycopene, an antioxidant that fights toxins and reduces damage done to cells and DNA, could be the beneficial ingredient in the food product.

Prostate cancer rates are higher in developed nations than other regions of the globe. Some researchers believe this may be due to the highly-processed foods present in the diet of many men in the first world.

A prostate cancer dietary index was created by the team, tracking intake of three chemicals linked to prostate cancer -- calcium, selenium and lycopene. They found that men who consumed a diet rich in all three substances experienced the lowest incidence of the disease.

"Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials. Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active," Vanessa Er, from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, said.

Investigation of the role played by tomatoes in preventing prostate cancer was detailed in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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