December 7, 2020

Will Eating Sugar Cause Cancer?

The short answer from a clinical nurse specialist

woman eating ice cream sundae

Q: Will eating sugar cause cancer or make my cancer worse?

A: You may have heard of the phrase “sugar feeds cancer.”

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This concept might have lead you to wonder if you should stop eating sugar for fear of feeding cancer growth or fear of developing cancer in the future.

Research supports the notion that cancer cells consume more sugar than normal cells, but there is no conclusive evidence proving that eating sugar will make cancer grow or spread more quickly or that cutting out sugar will prevent it.

However, that doesn’t mean that a high-sugar diet is healthy for you. Eating too many calories from sugar has been linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes, which are all risk factors for the development of cancer.

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All cells in our bodies, including cancer cells, need sugar (glucose) for energy. Our bodies have several back-up strategies to keep blood sugar levels normal. Even without eating carbohydrates, your body will make sugar from other sources, including protein and fat.

During cancer treatment and recovery, our bodies need energy. If you’re restricting your diet under the assumption that you’re helping, you may, in fact, be depriving yourself of sources of energy that you need to fight cancer.

Wondering what you should be eating if you have cancer? Meeting with a registered dietitian can help.

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— Cancer care nurse Josette Snyder, RN, MSN, AOCN.

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