In recent times, there has been a lot of talk about the connection of sugar consumption with accelerating the development of cancer and the active growth of malignant tumors. The latest "killer news" refers to a development by scientists from the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology. In principle, no one denies that sugar should not be overdone, but often such statements instill fear in people, which is also not desirable. In today's issue of "Doctor" we will present you a short interview related to this research, with Russian Dr. Dmitry Olkin - oncologist-chemotherapist, member of the European Society of Medical Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and of the European Society of Gynecological Oncology. Dr. Olkin also points out what is known in medicine today about the nutrition-cancer relationship
Dr. Olkin, can the statement that the use of sugar leads to the development of cancer be called a myth?
- Probably the largest number of myths in medicine are associated with oncological diseases, and the claim that the use of sugar leads to the development of cancer is one of these common misconceptions. Of course, there's no smoke without fire, so this myth doesn't just happen.
It is known that tumor cells actually use a large amount of glucose because these are cells that do not differentiate, instead they divide very quickly. That is, they do not need time and effort to turn them into specialized cells of certain tissues and organs. These cells need more energy to divide. And the lightest and most accessible source of energy is, of course, glucose. But! This does not mean at all that the sugar we consume, entering the body, immediately and directly begins to "feed" the tumor cells.
Are you saying that things are not that simple - we eat sugar and are at risk of cancer?
- Our organism was created by evolution as a complex and sustainable system, with processes at many levels. And, yes, everything that happens in it is not as simple and linear as one might think. When we eat something sweet, it immediately kicks into action with a well-oiled mechanism - the endocrine system. The pancreas is involved, which secretes the hormone insulin to normalize blood sugar levels and absorb glucose. That is, its level in the blood decreases, so it is an absolute fallacy that the consumed sugar immediately begins to feed tumor cells, helping them grow and multiply. As for the scientific developments, it was shown that the tumor cell uses more sugar than the normal one. But research in no way confirms that if a person consumes more sugar in his diet, he will necessarily develop an oncological disease. Rather, sweet lovers will overload their pancreas, gain weight, and bring on diabetes. But a link between the amount of sugar eaten and the development or growth of an existing tumor has not been proven. Moreover, when the researchers observed cancer patients who completely gave up sweets, unfortunately, they did not find any improvement in these patients.
In short, let's not scare people, shall we?
- It is not desirable and there is no need to instill unnecessary, unwarranted fear. But I will repeat again, the abuse of sugar is by no means harmless. If a person eats a lot of sweets, quickly digestible carbohydrates, and does not do enough movement, then the balance between used and spent calories is disturbed, as a result of which the pounds rise. It can lead to obesity, and in this situation it has already been reliably proven that it causes a large number of hormonal disorders. They, in turn, lead to the development of a number of types of cancer - of the uterus, of the esophagus, of the liver, of the stomach.
Dr. Olkin, are there any science-based dietary recommendations these days for cancer prevention as well as for those already diagnosed?
- An essential recommendation concerns breast cancer patients. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that they adhere to the so-called Mediterranean diet: lots of fruit, vegetables and fish. Research shows that this type of eating and reducing the amount of high-calorie food, of easily digestible carbohydrates, can lead to a decrease in the risk of breast cancer recurrence. But for now, these are studies on a relatively small selection of patients, which lowers the degree of credibility. There are also studies that show that the use of tomatoes, rich in the substance lycopene, helps prevent prostate cancer.