How Sugar May Fuel the Spread of Breast Cancer

Photo (cc) by HealthGauge

New research adds to concerns about the possible negative health effects of sugar.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Research suggests that consuming the simple sugar fructose derived from sucrose increases the risks of breast cancer development and its spread, or metastasis.

Table sugar, technically known as sucrose, is formed by the combination of fructose with another simple sugar, glucose, according to the American Chemical Society.

As opposed to natural sugars, which occur most plentifully in fruits, table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are manufactured sugars, which are added to many products to improve flavor, appearance and texture.

Fructose differs from glucose in that it can only be broken down by liver cells, whereas glucose can be broken down for energy by most any cell in the body, according to Harvard Medical School.

The study authors write:

We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable with levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis, when compared with a non-sugar starch diet.

One of the study authors, Lorenzo Cohen, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells NBC News:

“A lot of patients are told it doesn’t matter what you eat after you are diagnosed with cancer. This preliminary animal research suggests that it does matter.”

In this study, cancer tumors grew larger and more quickly in mice who received more fructose in their diets.

Cohen explains:

“It seems that fructose is driving this inflammatory process more than glucose. It seems from these series of experiments that it [is] really fructose … within the sucrose that is the driver of the tumorigenic process.”

Cohen says that, like oxygen, a little sugar is vital for life but too much is toxic.

The American Heart Association recommends that consumption of added sugars like table sugar be limited to no more than about 30 grams (about 6 teaspoons) a day for women and 45 grams (about 9 teaspoons) for men.

Do you take any steps to monitor or limit your sugar consumption? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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