Excessive sugar intake and cancer: Experts explain the connection

Nothing in excess can ever be good for the body, least of all sugar, which is known to cause diabetes and also harm the bones. But, is there any connection between sugar consumption and cancer? According to Dr Vedant Kabra, principal director, Department of Surgical Oncology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, researchers at American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, US do not think sugar causes cancer, but that the real problem is obesity.

“But, some cancer experts believe it can drive cancer (Dr Lewis Cantley, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York). Combining these two hypotheses is another theory that excess sugar causes obesity which, in turn, leads to a pro-carcinogenic state (favourable for cancer development) in the body,” he says.

Dr Mohit Agarwal, additional director and unit head, Medical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, adds that sugar requirements are dependent on a natural balanced diet, which includes carbohydrates, amino acids, and everything else.

“One should not say how much sugar they can consume; it should be a balanced diet where every component is in proportion to the body height and weight, and the sugar levels in the body are maintained as normal and not in the hyperglycemic range,” he says.

On whether overconsumption of sugar can lead to cancer itself, Dr Agarwal explains that cancer cells multiply “very fast” and require a lot of “sugar glucose for metabolism”.

“So, excess sugar would fuel the growth and this would lead to cancer. Various studies have shown that there is no correlation between sugar consumption and causation of cancer and even if the patient is already a known case of cancer, it is not fuelled by consuming sugar.”