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Sugar Feeds Cancer Cells

Does sugar feed cancer?

Sugar feeds cancer cells. That’s been known for generations – and a new study from researchers in France underlines this fact.

But pump the brakes before shouting from the rooftops to burn the sugar cane fields.

According to the NutriNet-Santé study results, people who consume an abundance of sugary drinks have a higher risk of developing cancer. The evidence, however, does not establish a direct connection between the two. [1]

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, compiled data from 101,257 French adults – 79% women. The researchers tracked the subjects between 2009 and 2018, noting how many sugary drinks each of them had.

The drinks examined included sugar-sweetened beverages such as energy drinks, fruit drinks, 100% fruit juices without added sugar, milk-based sugary drinks, sports drinks, soft drinks, and syrups. The researchers also considered artificially-sweetened drinks – “all beverages containing nonnutritive sweeteners, such as diet soft drinks, sugar-free syrups, and diet milk-based beverages.”

The researchers measured the participants’ risk for all types of cancer – plus some individual ones such as breast, colon and prostate cancers – and adjusted for other possible cancer risks in each individual, including age, educational level, family history, physical activity levels, sex, and smoking.

Utilizing online questionnaires, the researchers assessed the subjects’ consumption of 3,300 different kinds of foods and drinks, including 97 types of drinks.

The study results showed that a 100-milliliter increase in sugary drinks was linked to a 22% percent increased risk of breast cancer and an 18% increased risk of overall cancer.

During the nine years, there were 2,193 first cases of cancer. This included 166 of cases of colorectal cancer, 291 of prostate cancer, and 693 of breast cancer.

Still, experts not directly involved in the research said it was a well-run study but noted its results could not establish cause and effect.

Amelia Lake with Teesside University in Great Britain, despite not providing a definite cause and effect between sugar and cancer, the study backs up other research regarding reduced sugar intake.

“The message from the totality of evidence on excess sugar consumption and various health outcomes is clear,” she said. “Reducing the amount of sugar in our diet is extremely important.” [2]

The researchers said limiting the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks may help reduce the number of cancer cases, and added the results would need to be repeated in more extensive studies.

Sugary drinks are linked to obesity, and the National Cancer Institute notes that nearly all of the evidence linking obesity to cancer risk comes from extensive observational studies. [3] Data from observational studies cannot definitively establish that obesity causes cancer. That is because obese or overweight people may differ from lean people in ways other than their body fat, and it is possible that these other differences – rather than their body fat – are what explains their different cancer risk.

The World Health Organization recommends that people should limit how much sugar they have to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. However, the researchers note, epidemiological literature on sugary drinks and the risk of cancer is still limited and there was not enough evidence to support a link in the recent report by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. [4]

To wit, many countries, including Britain, Belgium, France, Hungary, and Mexico, have introduced or are about to add taxes on sugar in an effort to help improve citizen’s health.

 

Citations

[1] Sugary drink consumption and risk of cancer. https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l2408

[2] Study Finds Possible Link between Sugary Drinks, Cancer. https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/study-finds-possible-link-between-sugary-drinks-and-cancer/4998108.html

[3] Obesity and Cancer. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet

[4] Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer