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Sharp Health News

Can sugar cause cancer?

Jan. 15, 2016

Sugar and cancer

According to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, added sugar should only make up about 10 percent of daily calories consumed. Supporting this guidance, studies have suggested that including sugar in a daily diet may increase the risk for cancer, specifically breast cancer.

According to Dr. Rodolfo Arcovedo, a general surgeon affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center who frequently treats patients with breast cancer, the relationship between sugar and cancer is not a new discovery; it has been a topic of research and discussion since the 1950s.

“Sugar contains glucose and fructose, which are both carbohydrates that seem to stimulate breast cancer cell mechanisms and allow these cells to grow and metastasize,” says Dr. Arcovedo. “This adds to existing evidence that such a concentrated amount of carbohydrates found in artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup may facilitate breast cancer growth.”

While the connection between sugar and cancer continues to be studied, it is important to recognize the effect diet has on our overall health. Diets high in sugar may also increase the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Sugar is an artificially purified, energy-packed compound that is capable of overstimulating the body’s metabolic mechanisms, including the production of insulin,” explains Dr. Arcovedo. “Too much insulin in the body can cause breast cancer cell growth, inflammation and other processes that are counterproductive to the body.”

So what is the alternative to sugar? The answer lies in the produce aisle: fresh fruits and vegetables. Dr. Arcovedo suggests limiting sugar intake as much as possible and reading labels to track how much sugar is in the groceries you buy. To help curb that sweet tooth, try natural sweeteners like agave nectar or honey in small amounts and, of course, eat as many tasty fruits and vegetables as you’d like.

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