Sugar and cancer risk

Does sugar feed cancer? This is one of our most frequently asked questions.

There is no strong evidence that directly links sugar to increased cancer risk, yet there is an indirect link.

All cells in our body — including cancer cells — need sugar (glucose) from our bloodstream for fuel. We get that blood sugar from foods containing carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy sources. Some glucose is produced within our bodies from protein.

But eating a lot of high-sugar foods may mean more calories than you need, which leads to excess weight and body fat. It is excess body fat that increases risk of many common cancers. That is why AICR recommends eating a diet rich in nutritious and filling foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans and replacing sugary beverages with low- or no-calorie drinks

Some strategies to help you eat less sugar include:

  •    switch sodas for flavored sparkling water without added sugar
  •    opt for unsweetened tea
  •    add colorful fruit like berries, melon and citrus to your water
  •    sprinkle cinnamon or cocoa on your coffee beverages and skip the sugar
  •    carry healthy snacks like nuts, fresh or dried fruit or whole grain crackers and cheese instead of sugary snacks.

Recommendation on Sugar