Correlates of serum lycopene in older women

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Experimental and epidemiological evidence suggests that lycopene, a predominant carotenoid found in human serum, may reduce the risk of certain cancers. We examined the association of dietary, physiological, and other factors with serum lycopene concentrations in a subsample of 946 postmenopausal women participating in the Women's Health Initiative. Pearson partial correlation coefficients and linear regression coefficients were calculated after adjustment for age, ethnicity, and serum low-density- lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Serum lycopene was correlated with serum LDL cholesterol (r = 0.23) and dietary lycopene (r = 0.17, both p < 0.001). Individual food items found to be correlated with serum lycopene after adjustment included fresh tomatoes or tomato juice (r = 0.11), cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce, or salsa (r = 0.17), and spaghetti with meat sauce (r = 0.19, all p < 0.01). Age and body mass index were negatively associated with serum lycopene levels (both p < 0.001). Serum lycopene levels were highest in the summer and highest for those living in the northeastern United States. If we postulate that high serum lycopene levels reduce cancer risk, it becomes apparent that we have limited ability to detect this association from studies of lycopene intake. An understanding of factors associated with serum lycopene levels can be useful for the interpretation of studies of dietary lycopene and disease risk.

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