Does prolonged sugar levels cause cancer? If one is diagnosed with cancer, does consuming sugar cause cancer cells to grow faster? Is there a link between diabetes and cancer?
There has been a lot of confusion revolving around sugar. In fact, it has been made the villain of our diet; however, where does the consensus lie between diabetes and cancer? On this World Cancer Day, let us find out more about this relationship!
The link between Diabetes and Cancer
One of the theories why a link between sugar and cancer is considered is because high levels of circulating insulin are known to promote the growth of tumours. In the cases of Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance leads to the body producing more than normal. Another reason for the link between cancer and diabetes is the ongoing unhealthy lifestyle lead by people causing obesity, thereby increasing the risks of diabetes and cancer.
Although research has yet to prove a significant relation between sugar and cancer, the following types of cancers are known to be doubled due to Type 2 diabetes.
– Liver cancer
– Endometrial cancer
– Pancreatic cancer
While the link between diabetes and cancer is somewhat established, there are a lot of myths surrounding this relationship.
Diabetes and Cancer: Myths vs. Facts
Now that we know there is an ambivalent relationship between diabetes and cancer, here are 5 myths that we debunk about sugar and cancer:
Myth 1: Consumption of sugar causes cancer
Fact: The idea that cancer cells feed on sugar has been around for a while. This is based on the fact that cells convert glucose into energy through glycolysis in the presence of oxygen. However, this is partially true. The current scientific paradigm considers cancer to be a genetic mutation. Although, recent studies have not been able to prove the relationship, an ambiguous relationship between the same has not been completely ruled out.
Myth 2: Since cancer cells grow quickly and need a lot of energy, cutting carbohydrates/sugar stop cancer.
Fact: It’s not that simple. Although cancer cells grow quickly and need a lot of energy during the process, cutting down glucose or carbohydrates alone cannot do any wonders. Cancer cells not just crave sugar but other nutrients such as amino acids and fats. One interesting fact about the same is the ways cancer cells making energy leading to new treatments.
Myth 3: If sugar does not cause cancer, we don’t need to worry about it
Fact: You must be wondering if sugar does not cause cancer or even cutting down sugar does not treat cancer, then why should one worry. This is because there is an indirect relationship between diabetes and cancer. Eating lots of sugar leads to overweight and obesity which has shown to increase the risk of cancer. In fact, amongst the risk factors of cancers, obesity is the single best preventable cause after smoking.
Myth 4: Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetics are prone to cancer
Fact: Both types of diabetes are linked to insulin, but the conditions are different and hence the risk of cancer differs. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body stops producing insulin. However, in the case of Type 2 diabetes, inactivity and obesity are the causes which makes the body not able to absorb the insulin produced. The chances of cancer is higher on the latter than the former.
Myth 5: If you’re overweight or obese, type 2 diabetes and cancer is inevitable
Fact: Although the studies have shown an ambiguous relationship between diabetes and sugar, it is quite evident that a person who is overweight or obese has a higher risk of cancer than one who is normal and fit. However, obesity is a condition which is reversible. Healthy life choices and exercise can therefore reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
The relationship between cancer and diabetes is complicated. On one hand, sugar itself does not cause cancer and cutting down the same help in destroying the cancer cells. In fact, there is no evidence that adopting a diet which is low in carbohydrates helps in reducing cancer risk. However, the consumption of sugar leads to obesity and being overweight is undeniable.
Hence, the take home message is to lead a healthy lifestyle and lower the amount of sugar in our diets. This World Cancer Day, let us pledge to make healthy choices and stay away from avoidable causes of cancer!