Related topics

Spaghetti Sauce, Pizza Said To Help Fight Prostate Cancer

December 6, 1995 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Good news: Researchers have found that pizza and spaghetti sauce can protect against prostate cancer. Really.

A Harvard study of the eating habits of 47,000 men over six years found that those who had at least 10 servings a week of tomato-based foods were up to 45 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Most of the protection came from eating spaghetti sauce, said Dr. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health, but pizza that includes layers of tomato sauce also helped.

``We found that more was better,″ said Giovannucci. He said men who typically took only four to seven servings of the tomato-based food had a 20 percent reduction in the rate of prostate cancer.

A report on the study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Giovannucci said researchers checked the consumption of 46 fruits and vegetables and only tomato-based foods and strawberries seemed to have a protective effect against prostate cancer.

He said the benefits of tomatoes came from several forms: sauce, juice, raw and even when cooked into pizza. Spaghetti sauce was the most common tomato-based food eaten by the men in the study group.

Giovannucci cautioned that the findings should not be interpreted to mean that people should load up on tomato products.

``These findings support the idea that people should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables,″ he said. Nutrients in other foods, said Giovannucci, may be protective against other types of cancers.

Tomatoes may be protective, he said, because they are rich in an anti-oxidant called lycopene. This molecule may act to block the initiation of the cancerous process.

Giovannucci had no explanation for the apparent benefit of strawberries, but suggested that the finding was a statistical fluke.

However, the result for tomatoes was clear, he said, because the benefit was shown in four forms of the food.

Giovannucci said the study found that other nutrients, such as beta carotene and vitamin A, had no effect on the rate of prostate cancer. He said, however, that these nutrients may be protective against other types of cancers as some other researchers has reported.

The protective effects of tomatoes had been suggested in some earlier studies of prostate cancer rates. Giovannucci said the research had found that prostate cancer was less common in southern Mediterranean countries, such as Italy and Greece, where tomato-based foods are a major part of the diet.

In the new study, Giovannucci said cooked tomato products seemed to be more protective than juice or raw tomatoes. It could be, he said, that when tomatoes are heated cells burst to release more lycopene.

The study is based on dietary survey taken of 47,000 men in the health professions between the ages of 40 to 75. The first survey was taken in 1986 and the men were followed and periodically re-examined. At the end of the study, in 1992, there were 812 cases of prostate cancer among those in the study group. The researchers then compared the dietary history of those who developed prostate cancer with those who did not.