Does Sugar Cause Cancer? These Facts Might Surprise You

Does Sugar Cause Cancer? These Facts Might Surprise YouWe all know that sweets, desserts, baked goods, sodas, and other sugary foods aren’t necessarily our friends when it comes to staying healthy. Most often, we think of sweets being bad in terms of weight loss, or maybe you think of sugar as being bad for blood sugar and diabetes.

But does sugar cause cancer, too? Learn the truth below.

Does sugar cause cancer?

There are many claims that sugar feeds cancer cells, and that eating sugar will cause or worsen cancer. While not all of these claims have been substantiated by scientific studies, there is a growing body of evidence linking high sugar intake to an increased risk for several types of cancer. 

  • Breast cancer. Animal studies show sugar intake to increase breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis.[1] A study on Malaysian women found that women with the highest intake of sugar had a two-fold increased risk of breast cancer.[2]
  • Colon cancer. Higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake is associated with increased rates of cancer recurrence and cancer mortality in patients with stage 3 colon cancer.[3] Men with higher sucrose, fructose, and glycemic loads in their diet had a 27% to 37% higher colorectal cancer risk.[4]
  • Pancreatic cancer. High fructose and glucose in the diet has been associated with a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.[5,6]
  • Liver cancer. One of the major forms of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HPCC) has repeatedly been associated with sugar intake. A lower total sugar consumption lowers risk for HPCC,[7] and researchers are making the argument that high sugar intake is a risk factor for HPCC.[8] This is partly because sugar intake leads to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, all conditions related to HPCC.[8]

These studies don’t necessarily prove that sugar causes cancer. They can only provide evidence for an association between high sugar intake and higher cancer risk. But with many studies showing that the more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to have cancer, there certainly is cause for concern. Reducing sugar intake may help you to reduce your cancer risk. And it will benefit your health in numerous other ways as well.

Other reasons to avoid sugar

Eating a lot of sugar in your diet can also make you more likely to be obese, and to have serious conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.[3] Sugar may also play a role in the development of dementia, and it can be bad for your bones, too.

How to lower your sugar intake

It is important to remove added sugars from your diet. Reduce your consumption of things like sodas, sweets, and other sugary foods, and move toward more whole foods including vegetables, whole grains, organic animal proteins, and healthy fats. If you are having trouble with sugar cravings, try gymnema sylvestre.

Adopting a low-glycemic diet is a great way to reduce your sugar intake, as well as your intake of foods that raise blood sugar like refined carbohydrates.

Scared that sugar-free means no more tasty treats? Stevia is an excellent option as a natural sugar substitute in your diet. Learn about the many benefits of using stevia here.

Try this recipe for low-sugar coconut balls, which is a fun, healthy dessert option.

Share your experience

Do you have experience removing sugar from your diet? What tips do you have for going on a low-sugar or sugar-free diet? Share your tips in the comments section below.


[1] Cancer Res. 2016 Jan 1;76(1):24-9.

[2] Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(14):5959-64.

[3] PLoS One. 2014 Jun 17;9(6):e99816.

[4] Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):138-47.

[5] Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Apr;18(4):1144-51.

[6] Ann Oncol. 2012 Oct;23(10):2536-46.

[7] Ann Oncol. 2013 Feb;24(2):543-53.

[8] Nutrients. 2014 Dec 22;6(12):5933-54.

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