Does Sugar Increase Risk of Breast Cancer?

Thursday, Jan 14, 2016
Breast Cancer and Sugar Connection

A new study suggests high amounts of sugar – like those found in the typical Western diet – may increase risk for breast cancer.

Doylestown Hospital breast surgeon Donna Angotti, MD is an expert in the treatment of breast cancer. She shares her insight into recent study findings that suggest sugar may be linked to higher risk for developing breast cancer.

Study findings were released about the same time the federal government released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years. The guidelines suggest we need to cut back on sugar so that less than 10 percent of our daily calories come from added sugars.

High Sugar Consumption May Be Linked to Breast Cancer [The Study]

Sugar may increase the risk of a form of breast cancer that travels to the lungs, according to researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The results of their animal study appeared last week in the Journal of Cancer Research. Earlier studies showed a link between eating a lot of sugar and having a higher risk for breast cancer, but the studies did not explain how or why this happens.

For this new study, mice bred to have a high risk of breast cancer were placed on four different diets. One group ate amounts of sugar similar to those found in the average U.S. diet. More than half of those mice developed breast tumors in six months. In the mice fed an alternative diet, less than one third developed the tumors.

The researchers specifically blamed fructose as the agent that causes the inflammation that increases cancer risk. High fructose corn syrup is the main sweetener used in the United States and around the world. It is found in many processed foods such as pasta sauce, salad dressings, baked goods, and some beverages. It is less expensive to use high fructose corn syrup than table sugar when processing foods.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

People in the United States are eating huge amounts of sugar every day. Eating too much sugar is linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Americans eat more than 100 pounds of sugar per year. That's more than 30 teaspoons of added sugar every day.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.

One 12-ounce can of cola contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, which is already over the daily recommended amount for women. Studies suggest that drinking sugary drinks—like soda, sweetened energy drinks, iced tea and even some milk- and juice-based beverages—can lead to obesity.

It can be confusing to keep track of how much sugar you're eating in a day because most food labels report sugar content in grams. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, so women should be consuming no more than 24 grams per day (6 teaspoons).

Cutting Down On Sugar

Eating less sugar each day has many health benefits. It's important to be aware how much sugar you're eating. The American Heart Association offers basic facts about sugar (Sugar 101). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers tips for reducing your family's sugar intake.

We will have to take an active role in reading and understanding the labels of any processed foods that we eat. Most insurance plans will cover a nutrition consult if you would like to obtain a professional's help to increase your health in this new year.

--Donna Angotti, MD

Learn More About Doylestown Health's Breast Center

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