Our Nutritionist Elizabeth Somer discussing prostate cancer risks

How well do you know your prostate? More importantly, are you taking good care of it? There is good reason to ask those questions, since prostate cancer can be a serious issue.

The prostate is a gland only found in men. It’s a walnut-sized gland that lies below the urinary bladder and produces fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. It grows rapidly during puberty, fueled by male hormones, such as testosterone. Through adulthood it stays about the same size or grows slowly.

Age is a critical factor when it comes to the prostate. With the passing of years, the prostate can keep growing and begin to press on the urethra, leading to problems urinating and to a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH. Don’t’ worry. This is not cancer, but it can require medical treatment.

Prostate cancer is another matter. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, second only to skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer in men. One in every seven men will be diagnosed with this form of cancer in their lifetimes. Although most cancers of the prostate are slow-growing and often outlive the man, some can be quite serious.

Whether it is BPH or prostate cancer, lifestyle, especially diet and exercise, plays an important role in prevention and treatment. A man can lower his risk for this disease with a few simple changes in what he eats and how much he moves. One of the most important diet habits to adopt is to load every plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, including watermelon.

Maintaining a lean, fit body is important for a healthy prostate, since excess body fat, especially around the middle, even without being overweight can increase prostate cancer risk. Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to fill up without filling out because they are low in calories and rich in fiber and water that are satiating. For example, watermelon is 92% water and supplies less than 50 calories in every cup. Snack on that 5-ounce cup of watermelon instead of the same amount of chips while watching the football game and you’ll save more than 760 calories! Combine a diet packed with produce with daily exercise for the one-two punch to weight gain.

Colorful fruits and vegetables do more than help you stay lean. They are some of Mother Nature’s richest sources of antioxidants, which reduce inflammation associated with prostate cancer risk. Watermelon is a source of the antioxidant vitamin C, and contains beta carotene, an antioxidant as well as the building block for vitamin A.

Lycopene is an antioxidant to focus on when it comes to the prostate. Lycopene is in a class of phytonutrients called the carotenoids (beta carotene is in this group). It is one of the most well-studied antioxidants in the fight against prostate cancer. Studies show that people who maintain good blood levels of lycopene are at lower risk for prostate cancer. The red fruits, including watermelon and tomatoes, are the richest sources. Simply taking lycopene supplements does not appear to provide the same protection as eating lycopene-rich foods. You can boost the absorption of this prostate protector by combining it with a little fat. For example,

  1. Watermelon-Avocado Salsa: Combine watermelon and avocado chunks with lime juice, diced red onion and chilies, and chopped cilantro to use as a topping on salmon or as a dip.
  2. Watermelon Spinach Salad: Combine watermelon chunks and baby spinach and toss with poppy seed dressing.
  3. Turkey Watermelon Sandwich: Add a slice of watermelon to a turkey sandwich made with whole wheat bread, turkey, and mayonnaise.
  4. Pork Watermelon Kebabs: Add watermelon chunks to your favorite Kebabs.

For more information on prostate health:

  1. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-what-is-prostate-cancer
  2. http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5814067/k.2BBE/Prostate_Cancer_Guides_and_Books.htm
  3. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/prostatesupplements/healthprofessional/page4
1. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-what-is-prostate-cancer
2. http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5814067/k.2BBE/Prostate_Cancer_Guides_and_Books.htm and their guide: Nutrition, Exercise and Prostate Cancer
3. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/prostatesupplements/healthprofessional/page4
4. Adjakly M, Ngollo M, Dagdemir A, et al: Prostate cancer: The main risk and protective factors. Annals of Endocrinology 2015;76:25-41.
5. Ansari MS, Gupta NP: Lycopene: a novel drug therapy in hormone refractory metastatic prostate cancer. Urologic Oncology 22 (5): 415-20, 2004 Sep-Oct.
6. Arab L, Steck S: Lycopene and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71 (6 Suppl): 1691S-5S; discussion 1696S-7S, 2000.
7. Barber NJ, Zhang X, Zhu G, et al.: Lycopene inhibits DNA synthesis in primary prostate epithelial cells in vitro and its administration is associated with a reduced prostate-specific antigen velocity in a phase II clinical study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Disease 9 (4): 407-13, 2006.
8. Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al.: Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80 (2): 396-403, 2004.
9. Bunker CH, McDonald AC, Evans RW, et al.: A randomized trial of lycopene supplementation in Tobago men with high prostate cancer risk. Nutrition and Cancer 57 (2): 130-7, 2007.
10. Chen J, Song Y, Zhang L: Lycopene/tomato consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo) 59 (3): 213-23, 2013.
11. Clark PE, Hall MC, Borden LS Jr, et al.: Phase I-II prospective dose-escalating trial of lycopene in patients with biochemical relapse of prostate cancer after definitive local therapy. Urology 67 (6): 1257-61, 2006.
12. Elgass S, Cooper A, Chopra M: Lycopene treatment of prostate cancer cell lines inhibits adhesion and migration properties of the cells. International Journal Med Sci 2014;11:948-954.
13. Etminan M, Takkouche B, Caamao-Isorna F: The role of tomato products and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 13 (3): 340-5, 2004.
14. Fielding JM, Rowley KG, Cooper P, et al.: Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 14 (2): 131-6, 2005.
15. Ford NA, Elsen AC, Zuniga K, et al.: Lycopene and apo-12'-lycopenal reduce cell proliferation and alter cell cycle progression in human prostate cancer cells. Nutrition and Cancer 63 (2): 256-63, 2011.
16. Ilic D: Lycopene for the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. Recent Results in Cancer Research 2014;202:109-114.
17. Ilic D, Forbes KM, Hassed C: Lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer. Cochrane Database System Review (11): CD008007, 2011.
18. Jatoi A, Burch P, Hillman D, et al.: A tomato-based, lycopene-containing intervention for androgen-independent prostate cancer: results of a Phase II study from the North Central Cancer Treatment Group. Urology 69 (2): 289-94, 2007.
19. Karppi J, Kurl S, Nurmi T, et al.: Serum lycopene and the risk of cancer: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) study. Annals of Epidemiology 19 (7): 512-8, 2009.
20. Kavanaugh CJ, Trumbo PR, Ellwood KC: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's evidence-based review for qualified health claims: tomatoes, lycopene, and cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 99 (14): 1074-85, 2007.
21. Khan N, Afaq F, Mukhtar H: Cancer chemoprevention through dietary antioxidants: progress and promise. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 10 (3): 475-510, 2008.
22. Kim HS, Bowen P, Chen L, et al.: Effects of tomato sauce consumption on apoptotic cell death in prostate benign hyperplasia and carcinoma. Nutrition and Cancer 47 (1): 40-7, 2003.
23. Kirsh VA, Mayne ST, Peters U, et al.: A prospective study of lycopene and tomato product intake and risk of prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 15 (1): 92-8, 2006.
24. Kolberg M, Pedersen S, Bastani N, et al: Tomato paste alters NF-kB and cancer-related mRNA expression in prostate cancer cells, xenografts, and xenograft microenvironment. Nutrition and Cancer 2015;67:305-315.
25. Konijeti R, Henning S, Moro A, et al.: Chemoprevention of prostate cancer with lycopene in the TRAMP model. Prostate 70 (14): 1547-54, 2010.
26. Kopec R, Schwartz SJ, Hadley C: Lycopene. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds.: Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare, 2010, pp 504-17.
27. Kristal AR, Till C, Platz EA, et al.: Serum lycopene concentration and prostate cancer risk: results from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 20 (4): 638-46, 2011.
28. Kucuk O, Sarkar FH, Djuric Z, et al.: Effects of lycopene supplementation in patients with localized prostate cancer. Experimental Biology and Medicine (Maywood) 227 (10): 881-5, 2002.
29. Kumar NB, Besterman-Dahan K, Kang L, et al.: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial of the Action of Several Doses of Lycopene in Localized Prostate Cancer: Administration Prior to Radical Prostatectomy. Clinical Medicine Insights: Urolology 1: 1-14, 2008.
30.Lee A, Thurnham DI, Chopra M: Consumption of tomato products with olive oil but not sunflower oil increases the antioxidant activity of plasma. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 29 (10): 1051-5, 2000.
31. Linnewiel-Hermoni K, Khanin M, et al: The anti-cancer effects of carotenoids and other phytonutrients resides in their combined activity. Archives Biochemistry Biophysics 2015;February 21st.
32. Magbanua MJ, Roy R, Sosa EV, et al.: Gene expression and biological pathways in tissue of men with prostate cancer in a randomized clinical trial of lycopene and fish oil supplementation. PLoS One 6 (9): e24004, 2011.
33. Mariani S, Lionetto L, Cavallari M, et al.: Low prostate concentration of lycopene is associated with development of prostate cancer in patients with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia. International Journal of Molecular Science 15 (1): 1433-40, 2014.
34. Mein JR, Lian F, Wang XD: Biological activity of lycopene metabolites: implications for cancer prevention. Nutrition Reviews 66 (12): 667-83, 2008.
35. Mohanty NK, Saxena S, Singh UP, et al.: Lycopene as a chemopreventive agent in the treatment of high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia. Urologic Oncology 23 (6): 383-5, 2005 Nov-Dec.
36. Mordente A, Guantario B, Meucci E, et al.: Lycopene and cardiovascular diseases: an update. Current Medical Chemistry 18 (8): 1146-63, 2011.
37. Mossine VV, Chopra P, Mawhinney TP: Interaction of tomato lycopene and ketosamine against rat prostate tumorigenesis. Cancer Research 68 (11): 4384-91, 2008.
38. Obermüller-Jevic UC, Olano-Martin E, Corbacho AM, et al.: Lycopene inhibits the growth of normal human prostate epithelial cells in vitro. Journal of Nutrition 133 (11): 3356-60, 2003.
39. Palozza P, Colangelo M, Simone R, et al.: Lycopene induces cell growth inhibition by altering mevalonate pathway and Ras signaling in cancer cell lines. Carcinogenesis 31 (10): 1813-21, 2010.
40. Peters U, Leitzmann MF, Chatterjee N, et al.: Serum lycopene, other carotenoids, and prostate cancer risk: a nested case-control study in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 16 (5): 962-8, 2007.
41. Qiu X, Yuan Y, Vaishnav A, et al.: Effects of lycopene on protein expression in human primary prostatic epithelial cells. Cancer Prevention Research (Phila) 6 (5): 419-27, 2013.
42. Schwenke C, Ubrig B, Thürmann P, et al.: Lycopene for advanced hormone refractory prostate cancer: a prospective, open phase II pilot study. Journal of Urology 181 (3): 1098-103, 2009.
43. Talvas J, Caris-Veyrat C, Guy L, et al.: Differential effects of lycopene consumed in tomato paste and lycopene in the form of a purified extract on target genes of cancer prostatic cells. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (6): 1716-24, 2010.
44. Tang Y, Parmakhtiar B, Simoneau AR, et al.: Lycopene enhances docetaxel's effect in castration-resistant prostate cancer associated with insulin-like growth factor I receptor levels. Neoplasia 13 (2): 108-19, 2011.
45. van Breemen RB, Pajkovic N: Multitargeted therapy of cancer by lycopene. Cancer Letters 269 (2): 339-51, 2008.
46. Woodside J, McGrath A, Lyner N, et al: Carotenoids and health in older people. Maturitas 2015;80:63-68.
47. Yang CM, Lu IH, Chen HY, et al.: Lycopene inhibits the proliferation of androgen-dependent human prostate tumor cells through activation of PPAR-LXRa-ABCA1 pathway. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 23 (1): 8-17, 2012.
48. Yang CM, Lu YL, Chen HY, et al.: Lycopene and the LXRa agonist T0901317 synergistically inhibit the proliferation of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells via the PPAR?-LXRa-ABCA1 pathway. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 23 (9): 1155-62, 2012.
49. Yang CM, Yen YT, Huang CS, et al.: Growth inhibitory efficacy of lycopene and ß-carotene against androgen-independent prostate tumor cells xenografted in nude mice. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 55 (4): 606-12, 2011.
50. Zhang X, Wang Q, Neil B, et al.: Effect of lycopene on androgen receptor and prostate-specific antigen velocity. Chinese Medical Journal (Engl) 123 (16): 2231-6, 2010.
51. Zu K, Mucci L, Rosner BA, et al.: Dietary lycopene, angiogenesis, and prostate cancer: a prospective study in the prostate-specific antigen era. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 106 (2): djt430, 2014.

Stay on top of what's happening with watermelon.

Sign up here to receive What About Watermelon? monthly news.

For Watermelon Industry news, please sign up for the Watermelon Update.

Watermelon Board

Representing 1,500 watermelon growers, shippers and importers nationwide, our goal is to promote the nutritional, culinary and convenience benefits of watermelon.


Enjoy the sweet taste at a watermelon festival.

Find One

Whole Watermelon

Use the whole watermelon – flesh, juice and rind.

See How