Sugar and Cancer: GreenMedInfo website

An article by Sayer Ji on the website GreenMedInfo this week draws attention to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2014 by Onodera, Nam and Bissell, regarding the role of sugar in initiating cancer. If there is overexpression of glucose transporters in the membrane of a normal breast cell, signalling pathways (such as EGFR and MEK) are triggered. Activation of these pathways can lead to the cell becoming malignant. In the reverse situation, reduction of glucose uptake in malignant cells promoted “phenotypic reversion” which means that the cancerous cells started to change back to non-cancerous cells.

The authors stated: “These results may provide additional evidence for how hyperglycemia in diseases such as obesity and diabetes could provide a microenvironment that results in higher risk of some cancers. Additionally, our findings may explain how small molecules, such as metformin (used for treatment of diabetes and known to lower blood glucose levels), decrease the risk and mortality of several types of cancers.”

It is not quite as simple as saying that if you don’t eat sugar, a cancer can’t grow, because we always have glucose in our blood as a necessity for survival, and cancer cells can still utilize it. However, if you minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white flour and pasta, your cancer risk and risk of cancer progression will be lower for a number of reasons.

I do agree with Sayer Ji that we should not encourage patients to eat more sugar to prevent weight loss during cancer treatment. They should have adequate protein, plenty of fruit and vegetables and follow a muscle building exercise program. Furthermore, it is quite counter-productive to use sugary treats to fund-raise for cancer research!

See my book or the video in the members’ library for more about the sugar/cancer connection.