Anyone with even a modicum of understanding of health recognizes that consuming excessive amounts of sugar wreaks havoc on the human body. In addition to obesity, high blood pressure and the like, those with a sweet tooth now have to include breast cancer to their list of potential maladies, according to a new study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Researchers have noted sugar’s impact in a specific enzymatic signaling pathway dubbed 12-LOX (12-lipoxygenase). However, the fact that high sugar intake increases the risk of breast cancer isn’t exactly news. The Women’s Health Study found women with a diet that raises blood sugar levels had a 135 percent increased risk of getting breast cancer during a seven-year-long study. The recent study differs from its predecessors in that it centers on how sugar affects mammary gland tumor development in mouse models.(1,2)
The MD Anderson researchers conducted four different studies where mice were randomized to different diet groups and fed one of four diets. At six months of age, approximately 30 percent of mice on a starch-control diet had noticeable tumors. On the other hand, approximately 50 to 58 percent of mice on a sucrose-enriched diet developed mammary tumors.(1)
“Prior research has examined the role of sugar, especially glucose, and energy-based metabolic pathways in cancer development,” said Peiying Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine, who was involved in the study. “However, the inflammatory cascade may be an alternative route of studying sugar-driven carcinogenesis that warrants further study,” she added.(1)
The sucrose levels in the mice were on a par with levels found in the standard American diet. The sugar fed mice had a greater risk of breast cancer growth and metastasis than mice on a non-sugar starch diet. One hypothesis is that consuming more sugar increases the expression of 12-LOX and 12-HETE, a sister fatty acid. The study also found that lung metastases was significantly higher in mice on a sucrose or fructose fed diet than a starch-control diet.(1)
Rather than glucose, the researchers were able to determine “that it was specifically fructose,” laced in table sugar and high-fructose syrup that was responsible for the increased risk.(1)
Yang said the study was unprecedented in the sense that it aimed to explore the immediate influence sugar consumption had on breast cancer using animal models, which identify the mechanisms that underpin the development of the disease. In addition, the research also found that the number of lung metastases was higher in mice on a sucrose or fructose diet.(1)
“This study suggests that dietary sucrose or fructose induced 12-LOX and 12-HETE production in breast tumor cells in vivo,” said co-author Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine. “This indicates a possible signaling pathway responsible for sugar-promoted tumor growth in mice. How dietary sucrose and fructose induces 12-HETE and whether it has a direct or indirect effect remains in question.”(1)
The authors of the study claim pinpointing risk factors for tumor growth and metastasis should be a public healthy priority, and that their findings support the belief that moderate sugar consumption is vital.(1)
Per capita consumption of sugar has skyrocketed to over 100 pounds a year, especially with regards to sugar sweetened beverages. The human palate was tuned to jump on sugar, but not on the amounts available today. It’s a strain on the body to digest so much sugar; thus, too much consumption may lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and — this should really come as no surprise to anyone anymore — breast cancer.(1)
Refined sugar is devoid of vital nutrients, causes obesity and diabetes, and increases the risk of breast cancer. If you or someone you know is battling cancer, you may want to consider significantly reducing this dangerous substance from your diet.