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Does cancer have a sweet tooth?

Here’s the truth about whether sugar can increase your risk of cancer.

From drinking soda to using deodorant, there are many ideas out there about what can and cannot give you cancer. 

And one of the popular scapegoats for cancer growth over the years has been sugar.

Some Americans believe that consuming sugar can increase your risk of developing cancer. This idea probably comes from the fact that cancer cells need a lot of energy to multiply at the rapid pace that they do. And like regular cells, they fuel that energy with glucose or sugar.

But does that mean cancer cells have a sweet tooth?

Just like healthy cells, cancer cells need more than glucose to grow. They need other nutrients like amino acids and fats, too.

Here’s the truth about whether sugar can increase your risk of cancer.

Sugar and your risk of cancer

Although eating a lot of sugar isn’t good for you for many reasons — it can give you high blood pressure, cause you to gain weight, erode your teeth and more — it hasn’t been proven that sugar will increase your risk of cancer.

Although cancer cells get some energy from sugar, eating more sugar won’t speed up the growth of cancer cells.

Likewise, studies have shown that restricting cancer cells from sugar doesn't slow their growth. 

Sugar and weight gain

Although cancer cells may not have a sweet tooth, sugar could influence your risk of cancer in another way.

Eating a high-sugar diet can lead to weight gain. Being overweight has been proven to increase your risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer, after smoking. 

And being overweight or obese could lead to type 2 diabetes, another risk factor of cancer.

With type 2 diabetes, you experience spikes in blood sugar and insulin, the hormone that’s supposed to regulate your blood sugar. Your body becomes resistant to the regulation of insulin, leading to high blood sugar. 

Type 2 diabetes is associated with increased risk for some cancers, including liver, pancreas, endometrium, colon and rectum, breast and bladder.

So although cancer cells may not be searching your body for a sugar snack, too much sugar could increase your risk of cancer if your high-sugar diet leads to weight gain or obesity.

Healthy eating and cancer

Choosing a healthy diet that’s low in sugar can still help improve your chances of keeping cancer away. 

A healthy diet can help you keep your weight down. But eating high fiber foods like wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables can also reduce the risk of mouth, throat and lung cancers.

And limiting fried foods, processed foods and red meats can also help fight off bowel and stomach cancer.

Paired with plenty of exercise, eating healthy is a way you can actively protect your body from cancer and other critical illnesses, too.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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