Not so sweet news: High sugar intake may increase risk of breast cancer, says study

A woman eating chocolate cake.Reuters

Attention all people with sweet tooth, especially women: a recent study conducted at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that high intake of sugar may increase risk of breast cancer.

The findings of the study, published last Jan. 1 on the online issue of the "Cancer Research" journal, also showed that a diet heavy on sweets can also increase the risk of lung cancer patients having a metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells to other organs.

The researchers reached these conclusions after experimenting on mice. They fed the rodents with sucrose intake comparable to levels of Western diets, and found out that this high level of sugar intake led to higher cancer risks.

"We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis, when compared to a non-sugar starch diet," Peiying Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine said on a report published by Science Daily.

Yang attributed the higher risk to breast cancer and lung cancer metastasis among high sugar consumers to an enzymatic signaling pathway known as 12-LOX (12-lipoxygenase).

"This was due, in part, to increased expression of 12-LOX and a related fatty acid called 12-HETE," the researcher explained.

Yang also said this was the first time a research ever established a direct correlation between the development of breast cancer in animal models and sugar consumption.

"Prior research has examined the role of sugar, especially glucose, and energy-based metabolic pathways in cancer development," Yang said. "However, the inflammatory cascade may be an alternative route of studying sugar-driven carcinogenesis that warrants further study."

Co-author Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation, and Integrative Medicine, meanwhile, stressed the bad effects of common table sugar to our health.

"We determined that it was specifically fructose, in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, which was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumours," Cohen said on the Science Daily report.