Sugar: Not So Sweet - Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Recently revealed in a study, found that a Western diet high in sugar may increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer and metastasis to the lungs.

Although previous studies have focused on how sugar contributes in the development of cancer, this first and recent study used animal models, distinctly focusing on the role sugar plays in the very mechanisms of breast cancer. The National institutes of Health funded the research.

Sugar a risk factor for breast cancer?sugar increases breast cancer risk

Mouse model studies conducted at The University of Texas: MD Anderson Cancer Center concluded that of four groups of mice with different diets, those mice consuming the largest amount of sucrose (sugar) were more susceptible to tumor growth (of the mammary glands) than the group of mice with the non-sugar starch diet. In fact, up to 58% of mice on high sucrose diets developed mammary gland tumors; mice in the group of sucrose- or fructose-enriched diets also had significant lung metastases. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Cancer Research.

The mice consumed a sucrose-enriched diet up to the age of 6 months and comparable to that of a Western diet – red meat and saturated fat, refined sugars and low intake of fruit and vegetables. Researchers examined how sugar intake promotes a specific enzyme pathway, 12-LOX (12-lipoxygenase), to increase its expression and the initiation of a related fatty acid called 12-HETE.

The study also focused on other mouse models and the influence that sugar has on mammary gland tumors. Fructose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup (cereals and fizzy drinks) were specifically responsible for increasing 12-HETE in breast cancer and spread of tumors to the lungs (lung metastases).

Sugar in moderation

Today, most Americans consume a diet high in sugar – 100 lbs (approximately 30 teaspoons of sugar, daily). To put this in perspective: The American Heart Association’s recommended daily guidelines for women are 6 teaspoons and for men 9 teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar is deemed a culprit where health is concerned – large consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and other sweet treats significantly contribute to the epidemic of obesity (which can lead to type 2 diabetes), cancer and heart disease, not just in the US, but worldwide. Furthermore, other studies from notable journals and organizations (WHO and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to name a few) have associated sugar with increased aging and cardiovascular disease.

The team of researchers who conducted the study, emphasized the importance of identifying risk factors of breast cancer, and recommended that the public reduce their daily consumption of sugar. Their research warrants further investigation.

While many other health experts’ guidelines further add that cutting out sugar in tea or coffee, buying products with the lowest amount of added sugars and replacing sugar with spices or extracts, such as cinnamon or vanilla, all help to lower daily sugar intake. Fruit, vegetables, dairy products, nuts and eggs all contain sugar, so it is impossible to cut it out completely, nor would it be healthy.

Herzliya Medical Center is a leading private hospital, offering innovative diagnostics and treatments for numerous conditions in all field of medicine; from breast cancer treatment to weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery). General health check-ups are available for men and women at the Center in Israel.

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