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Scientists link cancer to sugar

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 01:02

 

Cancerous tumors have a sweet tooth, according to a recent study out of University College London.

The researchers, Mark Lythgoe and Simon Walker-Samuel, found that sugar lights up tumors when examined under a MRI scan, meaning this new method of testing based on the observation that tumors consume more sugar than healthy human tissue could offer a cheaper and safer alternative to the radioactive detection exams currently practiced.

“In the future, patients could potentially be scanned in local hospitals, rather than being referred to specialist medical centers,” Lythgoe said in an interview with The Oracle.

But the premise that tumors consume sugar to sustain growth may be troublesome to many. 

Sugar consumption accounts for approximately 13 percent of the daily caloric intact of the average American adult, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

However, a USF researcher said the link between sugar and cancer is only a correlation, indicating a deeper complication.

Kimberly Chism, a dietitian at Moffitt Cancer Center, said excessive sugar consumption often leads to obesity that in turn promotes cancer.

“Consuming excessive amounts of carbohydrates, often in the form of sugary drinks and desserts, can contribute to overweight and obesity,” she said. “Overweight and obesity in turn increase risk for the development of cancer.”

Chism said she was skeptical of the UCL researchers’ premise of tumors receiving nourishment from glucose.

“This study simply discusses a new technique for imaging cancer,” she said. “It does not support the idea that sugar in and of itself promotes cancer growth.”

Chism said students should be mindful of keeping a healthy diet and weight. She said students should go off-campus to grocery shop once a week.

“The key is stocking up on a variety of healthy foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and other plant-based foods,” she said. “Students should request a variety of fresh foods within the dining halls.”

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