Sugar – Good or bad for Cancer?

Sugar Doesn't Just Feed Cancer Cells, It Produces Them - Dr. Farrah MD

We might’ve heard that sugar promotes cancer or causes it to spread more quickly. This makes sense in some ways. Blood sugar (glucose) is used by every cell in your body for energy. Cancer cells, on the other hand, need roughly 200 times more than normal cells. Tumors that develop in your lungs’ thin, flat (squamous) cells use much more glucose. To grow, they require a large amount of sugar. Some cancer experts believe that sugar is a cancer-causing agent. Lewis Cantley, PhD, head of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, is one of these experts.

He believes that excessive amounts of insulin, the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood, may be the cause of some cancers. 

There have been no randomized controlled experiments that prove sugar causes cancer yet. However, there is a relationship between sugar and cancer that is just indirect. Excess calorie intake can be caused by eating a lot of high sugar foods like cakes, cookies, and sweetened beverages. This may result in weight gain and an increase in body fat. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of 12 cancers, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, according to research. (AICR, 2016) To fully comprehend the link between sugar in the diet and cancer, more study is required. Blood sugar (glucose) is the source of energy for all cells, including cancer cells.

Obesity and cancer 

Obesity, or having too much body fat, is a proven cancer risk factor. Obesity develops when a person consumes more calories than they expend over time.

It can be caused by consuming a lot of refined carbohydrates, especially meals with added sugar. Inflammation caused by body fat can damage DNA and lead to cancer. 

On the Internet, there is a lot of conflicting and misleading information concerning the link between sugar and cancer. Two popular and false statements that come up in a Google search are that refined sugar promotes cancer and that eliminating sugar from one’s diet is an excellent approach to cure cancer.

Cancer cells often multiply quickly, consuming a lot of energy in the process. This need a large amount of glucose. Cancer cells require a variety of nutrients, including amino acids and lipids, in addition to sugar. There’s no proof that eating a “sugar-free” diet reduces your risks of getting cancer or increases your chances of surviving if you do but can influence your risk indirectly by making you obese which can increase your risk of cancer. 

The relationship between sugar consumption and cancer is a complex and evolving topic. While it is widely recognized that excessive sugar intake can contribute to various health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, the direct link between sugar and cancer development is still a subject of ongoing research.

Here’s what we currently know:

Cancer and sugar metabolism: Cancer cells have a high demand for energy, and they rely on glucose (a type of sugar) as their primary fuel source. This characteristic is known as the “Warburg effect.” However, it’s important to note that this increased glucose consumption by cancer cells is not caused by sugar consumption in the diet.

Obesity and cancer risk: Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and kidney cancers. However, it’s the overall dietary pattern, including high-calorie intake and poor nutrition, that contributes to this increased risk, rather than sugar alone.

Inflammation and insulin resistance: High sugar intake can promote chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, which are factors that have been linked to cancer development. Inflammation can create an environment that promotes the growth and spread of cancer cells. Insulin resistance is also associated with increased insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) levels, which may promote tumor growth.

Sugar in the context of a balanced diet: Consuming moderate amounts of sugar as part of a well-balanced diet is generally considered acceptable and does not directly cause cancer. It’s important to focus on overall dietary patterns, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while minimizing added sugars and processed foods.

Prevention and management: The American Cancer Society and other reputable health organizations recommend a healthy lifestyle that includes maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and following a balanced diet to reduce the risk of cancer. This includes limiting added sugars, sugary beverages, and processed foods.

It’s worth noting that research on this topic is ongoing, and new findings may emerge in the future. If you have specific concerns or questions about sugar intake and cancer, it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance based on your individual circumstances.


Sugar might not directly influence the risk of Cancer but indirectly it can make you obese and increase the risk of cancer. Therefore it is always better to avoid high-sugary foods and eat sugar in limited amounts.