How Do Cancer Cells Grow
While sugar does feed cancer, the true picture of how cancer cells grow is a “lot more complicated than that,” says University of New South Wales cancer biologist Dr Darren Saunders.
He says there’s strong evidence some cancer cells also feed on amino acids or lipids .
These sources are used as metabolic fuel to power the cell’s necessary processes, and as raw materials for building new cells, in much the same way sugar might be used.
But they also have a secondary purpose helping cancer cells protect themselves against chemical damage.
It’s a complex picture different cancer cell types using different fuel sources at different times. But that mirrors the direction cancer diagnosis and treatment is heading in, Dr Saunders says.
“We’re looking more and more at differences within individual cancers between patients, rather than trying to treat them all with a blunt instrument.”
The Link Between Sugar And Breast Cancer
Itâs a question doctors and dietitians hear from many women: Does eating sugar cause breast cancer? Can it raise your risk or make a tumor grow faster?
Major medical groups such as the American Cancer Society insist itâs a myth that âsugar feeds cancer.â Scientists are still looking into the link between sweets and all forms of the disease, including breast cancer, which affects about 1 in 8 women in the United States. But some research may offer a reason to rethink your sugar intake.
Cancer And Sugar: Is There A Link
You might have heard that sugar causes cancer or makes it grow faster. In some ways, this makes sense. Every cell in your body uses blood sugar for energy. But cancer cells use about 200 times more than normal cells. Tumors that start in the thin, flat cells in your lungs gobble up even more glucose. They need huge amounts of sugar to fuel their growth.
- Dairy products
- Carbs like bread, pasta, and rice
What would happen if you cut out these foods? Would that slow cancer or stop it from forming in the first place?
So far, thereâs not much proof that a low-sugar or low-carb diet lowers your chance of cancer. One exception is cancer of the esophagus, the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. A recent study suggests that sugar and sweetened drinks may raise the chances of this cancer by 70% or more.
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Myth: Wearing A Bra Can Cause Breast Cancerfact: There Is No Evidence That Bras Cause Breast Cancer
From time to time, media coverage and the internet have fueled myths that wearing a bra can increase breast cancer risk.
The theory was that wearing a bra especially an underwire style could restrict the flow of lymph fluid out of the breast, causing toxic substances to build up in the tissue.
However, there is no evidence to support this claim. A 2014 study of roughly 1,500 women with breast cancer found no link between bra-wearing and breast cancer.
Association Of High Blood Sugar Levels With Treatment Outcomes In Colorectal Cancer Patients
In a retrospective study done by the researchers in Taiwan, they analyzed data from 157 stage III colorectal cancer patients who were classified into 2 groups according to their fasting blood sugar levels one group with blood sugar levels 126 mg/dl and another with blood sugar levels < 126mg/dl. The study compared the survival outcomes and chemoresistance of the oxaliplatin treatment in the two groups. They also carried out in vitro studies to evaluate the impact of an anti-diabetic drug on cell proliferation after administering glucose.
Glucose addition increased the colorectal cancer cell proliferation in vitro. It also showed that administration of an anti-diabetic drug called metformin could reverse the enhanced cell proliferation and increase the sensitivity of the oxaliplatin treatment. The study on the two groups of patients suggested that a high blood sugar may be associated with a higher incidence of the disease relapse. They also concluded that patients with stage III colorectal cancer and high blood sugar levels may exhibit markedly poor prognosis and may develop resistance to the oxaliplatin treatment in a short period.
Findings from this study suggest that high blood sugar can impact the oxaliplatin treatment outcomes in Colorectal cancer patients. Hence, colorectal cancer patients undergoing this treatment may have to avoid very high intake of concentrated sugar.
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Myth: Consuming Too Much Sugar Causes Breast Cancerfact: There Is No Evidence That Sugar In The Diet Causes Breast Cancer
Not just with breast cancer but with all types of cancer, theres a common myth that sugar can feed the cancer and speed up its growth. All cells, whether cancerous or healthy, use the sugar in the blood as fuel. While its true that cancer cells consume sugar more quickly than normal cells, there isnt any evidence that excessive sugar consumption causes cancer.
There was a study in mice that suggested excess sugar consumption might raise the risk of breast cancer,3 but more research is needed to establish any link in animals as well as in people.
That said, we do know that eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is an established risk factor for breast cancer. In addition, some studies have linked diabetes with a higher risk of breast cancer especially more aggressive, later-stage cancers. Researchers arent sure if the link is due to that fact that people with diabetes tend to be overweight, or that they have higher blood sugar levels.
For health reasons, its always a good idea to cut down on desserts, candy, cakes, sweetened beverages, and processed foods that contain sugar. Reading labels is important, as many foods can have hidden added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.
Too Much Sugar Is Still Bad Right
Though we needn’t be worried about sugar feeding cancer, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your overall sugar consumption.
An excessive sweet tooth can lead to a whole host of health problems, including a greater risk of developing certain cancers.
Just as fat can be converted to sugar when it’s needed, the reverse can also happen sugar being stored as fat when the body doesn’t require it.
Professor Aranda says people with higher sugar intakes are more likely to be overweight or obese, which is a contributing factor to cancer.
“We’ve estimated that just over 3 per cent of the total number of cancers diagnosed in Australia are related to obesity or being overweight,” she says.
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Association Of Sugary Drink Intake With Pancreatic Cancer
A recent study did a similar analysis using questionnaire-based data from 477,199 participants included in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort study, most of which were women with a mean age of 51 years. During a follow up of 11.6 years, 865 pancreatic cancers were reported.
Unlike the previous study, this study found that total sweet beverage consumption may not be associated with pancreatic cancer risk. The study also found that juice and nectar consumption might be associated with a slight decrease in pancreatic cancer risk. Pancreatic cancer patients may have to avoid very high intake of drinks with concentrated sugar.
How Your Diet May Affect Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Eating right is one important way you may be able to lower your risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends eating mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and less red meat , less processed meat , and fewer sweets. A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancer types.
A healthy diet can also help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity increase the risk for getting breast cancer. Whats less clear is the link between breast cancer risk and any one food type. Many studies about foods and breast cancer risk have had different results, but no clear-cut answers. Here is what the evidence tells us about fat, vitamin supplements, soy, dairy, and sugar.
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Myth: Breast Cancer Always Causes A Lump You Can Feelfact: Breast Cancer Might Not Cause A Lump Especially When It First Develops
People are sometimes under the impression that breast cancer always causes a lump that can be felt during a self-exam. They might use this as a reason to skip mammograms, thinking theyll be able to feel any change that might indicate a problem. However, breast cancer doesnt always cause a lump. By the time it does, the cancer might have already moved beyond the breast into the lymph nodes. Although performing breast self-exams is certainly a good idea, it isnt a substitute for regular screening with mammography.
There are some other myths about what types of breast lumps are less worrisome, such as: If the lump is painful, it isnt breast cancer, and If you can feel a lump that is smooth, and/or that moves around freely under the skin, its not breast cancer. Any lump or unusual mass that can be felt through the skin needs to be checked out by a healthcare professional. Although most lumps are benign , there is always the possibility of breast cancer.
As Community member Simone RC says, that you only need to worry if your lump is hard, not movable, and not smooth. Every single doctor who felt my always-lumpy breasts said they never would have thought what I felt was suspicious. I noticed the new lump on one of my best old lumps. Smooth, movable, soft, like a grape cut in half lengthwise. Thank goodness my gynecologist took me seriously despite having my annual 3D mammogram completely clear a few months before.
But Dont Break Out The Rainbow Sprinkles
Sugar isnt off the hook completely. While eating more sugar, in and of itself, doesnt cause cancer, eating too much of it can make you pack on the pounds. Being obese does increase your risk for certain cancers, including breast cancer, as does being diabetic, which is also more likely if youre overweight.
There is evidence that following a Mediterranean diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and veggies and healthy fats can cut your cancer risk.
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Myth: If I Dont Have A Family History Of Breast Cancer I Wont Get Itfact: Most People Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Have No Known Family History
Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease. But only about 510% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning theyre caused by abnormal changes in certain genes passed from parent to child.1 The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.
But doctors often cant explain why one person gets breast cancer and another doesnt. The biggest risk factors are simply being a woman and growing older. Over time, healthy breast cells can develop mutations on their own, eventually turning into cancer cells.
Still, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer on either your mothers or your fathers side, this is an important risk factor that should be taken seriously. If there are one or more cases of breast cancer in close blood relatives, especially before age 50, and/or other cancers such as ovarian and prostate cancer in your family, share this information with your doctor.
Cancer Myths Cause More Harm Than Good
Our body is designed to use blood sugar as fuel, so while sugar does feed cancer cells it also feeds healthy cells. Oversimplifying the sugar and cancer debate can cause more harm than good, creating stress and anxiety around food and mealtime. Focus on overall lifestyle changes, rather than worrying about one food, to benefit your health.
Do you need help with making lifestyle changes to support healthy blood sugar? Learn more about our oncology nutritionist by visiting Integrative Medicine or calling 757-594-3099.
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What To Watch For
It can be tough to track down all the sugar you eat. Itâs hidden in things youâd never expect, like soups, salad dressings, peanut butter, yogurt, ketchup, instant oatmeal, nut milks, and hot dogs.
And often, itâs not even called sugar on the label.
There are more than 60 names for added sugar. Some, like maltose, dextrose and glucose, end in âose.â Also watch for:
- Fruit nectar
- Corn, rice, and maple syrups
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How Can I Cut Down On Free Sugar
Its free sugar were mainly concerned with when it comes to weight gain, not sugar that is naturally found in foods like fruits and milk or healthy starchy foods like wholegrains and pulses .
One of the easiest ways to lower your added sugar is to cut down on sugary drinks, which are the largest source of sugar in the UK diet.
Some sugary drinks, such as fizzy drinks and energy drinks, can have more than the recommended daily maximum amount of free sugar in one serving alone. And while these extra calories promote weight gain, they offer no other nutritional benefits.
Other obviously sugary foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits are all best kept as treats too. But some foods that have hidden high amounts of added sugar may surprise you. Some breakfast cereals, ready meals , pasta sauces and yoghurts can have shocking amounts of sugar added to them. Reading nutrition information labels and checking the ingredients list can help you choose lower sugar options.
While there are steps you and your family can take to cut down on added sugar, making these changes can be easier said than done. And its here that governments need to lend a hand.
Myth: If You Maintain A Healthy Weight Exercise Regularly Eat Healthy And Limit Alcohol You Dont Have To Worry About Breast Cancerfact: Although These Behaviors Can Help Lower Breast Cancer Risk They Cant Eliminate It
Its something we hear again and again from newly diagnosed women: I eat healthy, Im at a healthy weight, Im active, and I barely drink. So how did I end up with breast cancer? Yes, there is evidence that all of these behaviors can help lower your risk. However, they cant guarantee youll never get the disease. There are so many examples of people who do everything right and still get breast cancer.
Its certainly worth managing the risk factors you can control, such as what you eat and drink and how physically active you are. But its still important to get regular screenings, perform breast self-exams, and pay attention to any unusual changes in your breasts. And if you have any health-nut friends or relatives who think theres no way theyd ever get breast cancer, help them understand that no one is 100% safe.
Community member Beesie says: I think the heavy focus on lifestyle and environmental factors can be misleading since most breast cancers are caused by factors outside of our control.
Theres a myth that its your fault, adds Community member Illimae. It is not your fault, there is risk with everything in life, dont beat yourself up.
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Reasons Cancer Cells And Sugar Are Best Friends
Patrick Quillin, PHD, RD, CNS, former director of nutrition for Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, OK, wrote: It puzzles me why the simple concept sugar feeds cancer can be so dramatically overlooked as part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan . I agree. Sugar is cancers favorite food. There are at least five reasons that cancer and sugar are best friends.
Cancer cells love sugar! That is why refined carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, high fructose corn syrup and soft drinks are extremely dangerous for anyone trying to prevent or reverse cancer.
How Does Sugar Cause Cancer Cells to Grow?
Sugar essentially feeds tumors and encourages cancer growth. Cancer cells uptake sugar at 10-12 times the rate of healthy cells. In fact, that is the basis of PET scans one of the most accurate tools for detecting cancer growth. PET scans use radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells. When patients drink the sugar water, it gets preferentially taken up into the cancer cells and they light up!
The Link Between Sugar and Tumors
The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, PhD, discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. He found that malignant tumors exhibit increased glycolysis a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer as compared with normal cells.
How Long Does Sugar Impact the Immune System?
Should We Cut Off Sugar Completely From Our Diet To Prevent Cancer
Cutting off all forms of sugar from the diet may not be the right approach to avoid cancer, as the healthy normal cells also require energy to grow and survive. However, keeping a check on the following may help us stay healthier!
- Avoid regular intake of high sugar sweetened beverages, sweetened carbonated beverages, high concentrated sugary drinks including certain fruit juices and drink lots of water.
- Take just the right amounts of sugar as part of our diet by having whole fruits instead of separately adding table sugar or other forms of sugar to our foods. Restrict the amount of table sugar in your beverages such as tea, coffee,milk, lime juice and so on.
- Reduce the consumption of processed foods and include more fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid sugary and fatty foods and keep a check on your weight, as obesity is one of the major risk factors for cancer.
- Take a personalized cancer diet which supports your treatment and cancer.
- Along with healthy food, do regular exercises to stay healthy and avoid gaining weight.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
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