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High Blood Sugar Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers analyzed 16 studies covering 900,000 people and found that non-diabetics with high blood sugar levels are at 15 percent increased risk for breast, colon, liver, stomach, pancreas and endometrial cancers. No link was found for lung, prostate, ovarian, kidney or bladder cancers (Diabetologia, September 8, 2014).

More than 50 percent of North Americans have excessively-high blood sugar levels after they eat. You can have high blood sugar levels without being diabetic. It is well established that being diabetic markedly increases risk for many different cancers, but this study shows that even non-diabetics can be harmed by high blood sugar levels. Your doctor can order a test called Glucose Tolerance to see if your blood sugar is likely to rise too high after meals.

How Could High Blood Sugar Increase Cancer Risk?
Almost 100 years ago (1921), Otto Warburg suggested that depriving cancer cells of sugar would kill them. Normal cells in your body have two major sources of energy: 1) from all food using the Krebs Cycle, which occurs only in mitochondria, small chambers inside the cells; and 2) from sugar only, by glycolysis inside cells, but outside the mitochondria. Cancer cells are different from normal cells because they prefer to use sugar as their main source of energy. When you have high blood sugar levels, cancer cells have abundant energy to grow and multiply.

Other Ways High Blood Sugars Could Lead to Cancers
• High blood sugar levels block tumor suppressor genes that prevent cancers from forming.
• High blood sugar levels cause sugar to attach to protein and fat to form molecules called Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs) which are known carcinogens.
• High levels of insulin cause cancer cells to grow and divide (Diabetes Care, July 2012; 35(7): 1538–1543). High levels of insulin are associated with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and obesity (J Clin Invest, 1985 Mar;75(3):809-17).

Anything that is associated with high blood sugar levels is likely to be associated with increased cancer risk:
• overweight
•lack of exercise
• sugared drinks including fruit juices
• sugar-added foods such as desserts
• refined carbohydrates in flour, many breakfast cereals and many prepared foods
• many medical problems, such as a stroke or heart attack
• trauma (accident, burn, injury, surgery, etc.)
• chronic infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infection
• many medications (Four types of drugs used to prevent heart attacks increase risk for diabetes by 9 to 43 percent: statins, niacin, thiazide diuretics, and beta blockers (Am Heart J, April 2014:421-428))
• steroids and non-prescription drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy
• medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
• family history of diabetes
• history of having a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
• chronic pain
• very high environmental temperature

How to Prevent High Blood Sugar Levels
• Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit (Public Health Nutrition, Feb 2014;0217(2):361-8).
• Avoid sugared drinks including fruit juices (The American Journal of Cardiology, February 2014), and foods with added sugar
• Restrict refined carbohydrates (bakery products, pasta, most breakfast cereals)
• Restrict red meat (blocks insulin receptors)
• Restrict fried foods (high in Advanced Glycation Endproducts)
• Lose weight if overweight. Overweight blocks insulin receptors (Obesity Reviews, published online March 24, 2014;15(4))
• Avoid tobacco
• Avoid alcohol
• Get blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 75 nmol/L (lack of vitamin D prevents your body from responding to insulin)
• Exercise to enlarge and increase mitochondria in cells. (Cancer cells lack normal-functioning mitochondria).

September 14th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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