Breast Cancer Basics Little Silver, NJ

Can Too Much Sugar Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?

Americans and sugar, a love story. Sugar consumption in the U.S. continues to rise. Per capita, sugar consumption has now reached more than 100 lbs. Annually. That equals around 30 teaspoons a day. You read that right.

OK, those numbers make dentists cringe, but they should make everyone cringe. Not only is all of that sugar making us a fat country, but a new study shows evidence that it also is increasing breast cancer and facilitating that breast cancer to metastasize into the lungs.

The study was conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and its findings were published in the journal Cancer Research.

Studying the link

The MD Anderson study noted that previous research had identified a link between dietary sugar intake and the risk of breast cancer, but none of those studies investigated a direct impact of sugar intake on breast cancer development in animal models or looked for the mechanisms causing the cancer development.

This was the goal of this new study — to assess how sugar intake influenced breast cancer development in mice that were given various diets including a sucrose-enriched diet, a fructose-enriched diet, and a starch-control diet.

The researchers settled on the amounts of sucrose and fructose given to the mice based on the amounts in a typical Western diet. Western diets are characterized by high intake of refined sugars, saturated fat and red meat, and low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

About those diets

You may wonder where Americans get 30 teaspoons of sugar a day; you may not even believe that number. It’s as if you sat down and ate the entire sugar bowl every day. Yum. Here’s where it comes from.

  • Almost half of Americans’ sugar intake comes from soda and fruit drinks. Can you say Big Gulp?
  • A 12-oz. can of Coca-Cola contains around 8.25 teaspoons of sugar. Consider that a Big Gulp has almost four of those and you’re at 33 teaspoons of sugar right there.

Now, do you believe? Or do you want to look over at your co-worker and his or her 64-ounce Mountain Dew sitting on their desk?

The findings

The study found a dramatic relationship. Compared with the mice fed the starch-control diet, the mice fed the sucrose- and fructose-enriched diets were far more likely to develop breast cancer.

At the age of six months, the team found 30 percent of the mice fed the starch-control diet had breast cancer tumors. That seems like a high percentage until you look at the sugar diet numbers — in those two groups, breast cancer was at 50 percent and 58 percent.

Beyond the 20-38 percent differences, the researchers also found that the mice fed the sugar-enriched diets had significantly more tumors in the lungs than those fed the starch-control diet. The study notes that this suggests a link between high sugar intake and breast cancer metastasis.

“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 tumors,” the study notes.

In the study, the researchers write that pinpointing risk factors for breast cancer is a “public health priority,” and that their findings provide further evidence that dietary sugar intake plays a role in breast cancer development.

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