Published on 1st June 2017


A diet rich in tomatoes may help cut skin cancer by half – if you’re a male mouse. 1

Researchers from Ohio State University, USA, found that male mice that consumed tomato-containing diets developed fewer UVB (ultraviolet B)-induced skin tumours compared to male mice that did not consume tomatoes.

To test the hypothesis that tomato consumption would protect against skin cancer, the team fed mice a diet of 10 per cent tomato powder (red or tangerine variety) or a control, tomato-free diet daily for 35 weeks. To induce tumour development, mice were exposed to UV-B (ultraviolet B) radiation three times per week from weeks 11 to 20, and tumours were tracked weekly. Age- and sex-matched control mice were also fed each of the diets but not exposed to UVB radiation.

The team found that male mice fed the red tomato diets developed 50 per cent fewer tumours, on average, than mice on the control diet. Mice fed diets with tangerine tomatoes had fewer tumours than the control group, but the difference was not statistically significant. Whilst no significant differences were observed in tumour numbers for the female mice, previous research has shown that male mice develop tumours earlier after UV exposure and that they get more tumours, which are larger and more aggressive. Thus, the authors hypothesised that “because the overall number of tumours were small, differences were not noted between diet groups in female mice”.

Tatiana Oberyszyn, senior author, said: “This study showed us that we do need to consider sex when exploring different preventive strategies. What works in men may not always work equally well in women and vice versa.”2 

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


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  1. Cooperstone JL, Tober KL, Riedl KM et al. (2017). Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations. Scientific Reports, 7.