The high amount of sugar contained in the typical Western diet could be increasing people's risk of developing life-threatening breast cancer, according to a new study.
Carried out by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and published in the medical journal Cancer Research, the study has indicated that dietary sugar content in Western nations can increase the risk of breast cancer and metastasis to the lungs.
The researchers specifically examined the effect on dietary sugar on an enzymatic signaling pathway known as 12-LOX and a related fatty acid called 12-HETE. It was found that fructose in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup may be responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumours.
This is a significant finding, as no previous studies have investigated the direct effect of sugar consumption on the development of breast cancer using animal models, or cast light on specific mechanisms.
Researchers carried out four different studies in which mice were randomised to different dietary groups. At six months of age, it was shown that 30 per cent of mice on a starch-control diet had measurable tumours, compared to 50 to 58 per cent with mammary tumours among mice on sucrose-enriched diets.
The number of lung metastases was also significantly higher in mice on a sucrose or a fructose-enriched diet, further demonstrating the impact of excessive sugar consumption on the overall risk of breast cancer development and progression.
Dr Peiying Yang, assistant professor of palliative, rehabilitation and integrative medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said: "Prior research has examined the role of sugar, especially glucose, and energy-based metabolic pathways in cancer development. However, the inflammatory cascade may be an alternative route of studying sugar-driven carcinogenesis that warrants further study."
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