myths surrounding sugar and cancer

Not Too Sweet: Dispelling The Myth Surrounding Sugar and Cancer

The internet can be a wonderful thing; except for the times when it’s not. There is no dearth of information available on it, which can be a double-edged sword at times. The healthcare industry has profited immensely from the interconnected web which makes the dissemination and collection of data possible at the push of a button. However, some information can often be lost in translation and may pose a risk to not only readers but health practitioners as well.

One such fact that is doing the rounds today is that sugar consumption causes cancer. The myth probably has its roots in a less-than-read-up individual speculating on such a possibility and other like-minded individuals picking up on it. And for the benefit of this reader, no, sugar consumption does not cause cancer.

Not a carcinogen

Sugar is not a carcinogenic substance. A carcinogen is any substance that causes cancer in humans. It may be naturally occurring, like Aflatoxin, or man-made, like tobacco smoke. The myth that sugar consumption causes cancer can be dispelled by the simple fact that sugar has never made the list of carcinogenic substances.

Yes, but no

While there is no evidence whatsoever that sugar consumption causes cancer, its over-consumption can contribute to certain health problems that are conducive to cancer.

Over-consumption of sugar is a well-known health risk that is associated with obesity, diabetes, and other problems. An individual suffering from such problems is extremely vulnerable to cancer. Moderate sugar consumption is a necessary part of a healthy diet but its over-consumption can contribute to an unhealthy dietary pattern that puts the individual at a risk of cancer.

Another misconception about the relationship between sugar and cancer stems from the way that the human body works. Glucose is the all-important fuel that keeps our bodies running. The sugar in our food is broken down by the body into glucose which is then used by cells as fuel.

While both normal and cancerous cells need glucose to survive, cancer cells metabolize glucose at a faster rate. This is known as the Warburg Effect. This is known to scientists and is used to diagnose cancer in patients. Contrary to certain misguided beliefs, sugar consumption does not fuel the growth of cancer cells.

Temperance in all things

Like with most things, moderation is key. Your body needs sugar in some form to continue functioning normally and cutting out sugar from your diet is not recommended by experts. Erma Levy, a research dietician in Behavioral Science, states that sugar is needed for the functioning of your vital organs. “But too much daily sugar can cause weight gain. And, unhealthy weight gain and a lack of exercise can increase your cancer risks,” she cautions.

According to the American Heart Association, 25 grams or six teaspoons of sugar is the recommended daily intake for women and 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men. An even better option is to stock up on natural sugars which can be found in molasses, honey, maple syrup, and fruits.

The bottom line is this: Sugar in the appropriate amount is beneficial for the body’s functioning. Over-consumption can lead to a host of other problems which increases cancer risk. There is no conclusive evidence of sugar being a carcinogenic agent nor its consumption leading to faster growth of cancer. Learning to discern facts from fiction is a useful tool when approaching such medical claims or any topic in general.


Daniel is our UK-based freelance Editor. As part of our quest towards credible news, Doctor's Clinic Blog India affiliates with individuals from other parts of the world to provide an in-depth focus on essential topics. Daniel received his degree from the University of Sheffield, and since then, worked to multiple sites as a freelance contributor and editor.

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