Eating tomatoes may lower your risk for prostate cancer by nearly 20 percent, according to a U.K. study.

Scientists from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford assessed the diets and lifestyles of 1,806 prostate cancer patients between the ages of 50 and 69, and compared them to that of 12,005 cancer-free men.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found that men who ate more than 10 servings a week of tomatoes reduced their risk for prostate cancer by 18 percent. Study authors believe the decreased risk was a result of consuming large amounts of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes which helps fight off toxins that can cause DNA and cell damage.

“Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention,” lead researcher, Vanessa Er, said in the release. “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.”

Researchers also looked at the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research’s (AICR) recommendations on physical activity, diet and body weight for cancer prevention and found that for prostate cancer, only the guidelines on eating plant foods — high intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber — were associated with decreased risk.

The study is the first of its kind to develop a “dietary index” for prostate cancer comprised of selenium, calcium and lycopene. Men who had optimal intakes of these three components had a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

In the United States, prostate cancer affects about 1 in 7 men and is the second leading cause of cancer death – only behind lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer rates are higher in developed countries, which some experts attribute to a Westernized diet and lifestyle.

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