Sugar consumption linked to breast cancer and its spread to other organs, scientists say
A common sugar found in fizzy drinks like colas and food such as cereal bars, biscuits and ketchup could be driving breast cancer, a new study suggests.
The high-sugar Western diet may not only increase the risk of breast cancer, but the potential for it to spread to the lungs, scientists warn.
American researchers found that when mice were given a sucrose-rich diet, similar to our own diet in the West, the mice showed increased levels of tumour growth and metastasis (the cancer’s spread to other organs).
They also found that fructose in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup found in a wide range of foods and drinks could be driving the disease.
The mice were mainly fed sucrose, a key ingredient of table sugar and often added to fizzy drinks and juices as well as foods like processed meats, ketchup, pasta and pizza sauces, some snack foods and chocolate.
Mice given non-sugar diets richer in starch were less likely to develop cancer, the scientists found.
Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Center gave groups of mice one of four different diets and found that at six months old more than half of mice fed a sucrose-enriched diet had developed breast cancer.
The study, published in the online edition of the Cancer Research journal, also showed that cancers in mice on a high-fructose diet were more likely to spread than those on starch controlled diets.
One of the authors of the study, Professor Lorenzo Cohen, said: “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.”
Co-author Dr Peiying Yang said that she believed this was the first study to investigate the direct effect of sugar consumption and effect on the development of breast cancer.
She added: “We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels of Western diets led to increased tumour growth and metastasis, when compared to a non-sugar starch diet.”
Both authors said that identifying the risk factors for breast cancer was a public health priority.
The increase in consumption of sugar-rich drinks has been routinely identified as a key factor in the rise of obesity, heart disease and cancer across the world.