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New research reveals alarming link between sugar and cancer risk

Scientific paper urges overhaul of dietary advice and increased public awareness

In a groundbreaking scientific paper, researchers have uncovered a worrying direct link between sugar consumption and the risk of developing cancer. Previously it was thought that any link to cancer was because of weight gain and obesity. Now the research shows that sugar is linked to cancer independently of weight issues.

Despite existing recommendations from governments, international organisations such as the World Health Organisation and other reputable bodies, the research (from the US Government's National Institutes of Health) shows that across the world, most countries are exceeding recommended limits of sugar intake, posing potential health risks.

The study highlights that we are continuing to consume sugar in different forms, including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is found in a wide range of ultra processed foods, including pizza, biscuits and cooking sauces. As well as the more familiar table sugar, we also need to be aware of the health risks of sugar sweetened fizzy drinks and sweetened stewed fruit and fruit juice.

The findings challenge the common belief that the main problems of sugar are that it causes weight gain and only has an indirect link to cancer.

Research cited in the study suggests that excess sugar intake may play a substantial role in the development of various cancers, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic, independent of obesity. Potential mechanisms, such as inflammation and alterations in metabolic pathways, are suggested as contributors to the sugar-cancer link, independent of weight gain.

There has been a global shift towards more sugary diets, particularly in low- and middle-income countries as the Western diet spreads across the world.

It is clear that we urgently need proper nutrition guidelines taking into account the direct harms of sugar, beyond its impact on weight, with more cautious messaging and a system-wide approach to lower sugar consumption.

And I hope this means that Macmillan Cancer Research will rethink the way it fundraises - selling sweets and holding coffee mornings which are all about cake.

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