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Study Ties One Type of Sugar to Cancer Growth

Update Date: Jan 02, 2016 09:11 AM EST

Sugar has been linked to many health side effects and according to a new study, researchers might have identified a particular type of sugar that can lead to faster cancer growth. The team reasoned that their findings could explain why people with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer.

"A lot of patients are told it doesn't matter what you eat after you are diagnosed with cancer. This preliminary animal research suggests that it does matter," said study investigator Lorenzo Cohen of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, reported by NBC News.

For this study the researchers used mice to examine the effects of eating four different diets. The diets were either high in starch or high in a particular type of sugar (sucrose, fructose, and glucose). The mice were fed sugar everyday in doses that were carefully calculated so that they were as close to the levels of sugar that an American would eat every day. The researchers also selected mice that were genetically predisposed to breast cancer.

The team found that when the mice reached six-months-old, 30 percent of them from the starch-heavy diet group had developed breast cancer. In the sucrose group, 50 percent of the mice had tumors. The team found that the more sucrose the mice ate, the larger the tumors became.

Since sucrose is made up of fructose and glucose, the researchers wanted to see if these two types of sugar affected risk of cancer separately. Fructose and glucose are processed differently in the body. The team found that fructose appeared to increase tumor size more so than glucose did.

"It seems that fructose is driving this inflammatory process more than glucose," Cohen said. "It seems from these series of experiments that it really fructose that within the sucrose that is the driver of the tumorigenic process."

Although the researchers could not pinpoint exactly why fructose caused faster cancer progression, they did find that it made the LOX-12 pathway, which is tied to cancer, more active.

Since the body needs fructose, the researchers advised that people try to source it from natural fruit that contains other nutritional benefits as well instead of getting fructose from sugar-sweetened items, such as soda. The team noted, however that they did not study the relationship between fructose from fruit and cancer progression.

The study's findings were published in the journal, Cancer Research.

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