Does Sugar and/or Carbs Feed lung canc... - Lung Cancer Support

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Does Sugar and/or Carbs Feed lung cancer cells?


I've been scheduled for PET/CT scan Sept 9 (follow middle right-lung lobectomy May 22, stage 1 adenocarcinoma) to check on 2 nodules in upper right lung & 1 in left lung.

Preparation for the scan requires avoiding foods containing sugar and/or carbs. 24 hours prior, Do Not eat: sweets, bread, pasta, cereal, fruit, potatoes, corn, no refined sugar (Splenda o.k.), milk, white rice or white flour.

May eat: meat, fish, cheese, peanuts, black coffee, diet soda, decaffeinated tea (ok with Splenda) water, veggies (except potatoes & corn), but only a few leafy green veggies.

Then Nothing to Eat 6 hrs prior.

In prostate cancer support group I have seen reference to Sugar as fuel for PCa -- of course in addition to Testosterone & wonder if this applies to lung cancer cells as well. Welcome thoughts, comments etc.

18 Replies

I am <6 months into a NSCLC T3N0M0 resection myself and am still learning and getting a bit confused. That said, I am confident from what I am reading that yes, sugar feeds Cancer cells. Not enabling the Cancer stem cell is key. Deprived of sugary diet, C cells will adapt to fuel by other related means. I am still reading a book recommended to me, How to Starve Cancer. Technical with good info on Cancer behavior and no specific diet per se, but enough info to lead you to discern for yourself any dietary adjustments. This author used supplement of certain drugs to go with diet. Until I understand fully myself for my case, I can’t help you any further than Yes sugar is bad for us.

Lyubov in reply to yessirmam

Overall too much sugar, particularly "refined sugar," I know is bad for us. But it surprises me that "unrefined" sugar, such as the sugar naturally found in fruit & some veggies, can also be bad, especially as a "fuel for cancer." Cici145 below recommends a Mayo Clinic explanation that says that's no so. Obviously, this issue remains debatable. I'll take a look at the book you're reading, too. In the meantime, I'm trying to gain some weight so eliminating all sugar from my diet is problematic! I feel that I'm in a double bind here & ultimately will need to talk to an oncological dietician/nutritionist associated with my cancer treatment group. Thanks much & good luck to you!

According to my mother’s thoracic oncologist at Moffit who is a nationally regarded researcher, no it does not fuel cancer. I’ve linked an article from Mayo debunking the sugar fuels cancer myth. That said, you have to make the best decision for you.

Lyubov in reply to Cici145

Apparently the "sugar fuels cancer" remains debatable. I'll check out the Mayo Clinic reference you provide as well as the "Starve cancer" book recommended by "yessirmam." I don't use much "added sugar" at all but eat a lot of fruit. Also, I'm desperately trying to gain some weight because my BMI is slightly below what it should be. Since my surgery it seems difficult to gain even a little bit. I'm eating nuts -- cashews, walnuts & almonds -- throughout the day as snacks, but doesn't seem to be helping.

The article from the Mayo clinic does say: "there is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers".

I just started reading a book that was recommended in a reply to an earlier post: Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, and he discusses diet (chapter 8: "The Anticancer Foods") among other things. As I said, I just started reading it, but so far, it's been extremely informative.

Hope this helps!

Lyubov in reply to VerdeAzul

It seems logical that a diet with large amounts of sugar could cause some cancers. For one thing, it can cause obesity, which can cause all sorts of health problems anyway. Probably none or very few of us on this support group have a diet that's overly loaded with sugar. We all try to take good care of ourselves. I was just worried that even moderate amounts & limited to fresh fruits, etc., could be dangerous. But I'm confident that's not the case. Gotta eat, gotta live, can't eliminate everything -- but moderation & fresh & natural & unrefined foods are helpful to everyone's health. Take care & thanks for the title.

I asked my oncologist about sugar and was told that even if sugar does feed cancer, starve your body of sugar and the cancer will adapt and keep growing.

I eat as healthy as I can, very little processed sugar, lot's of fruits and vegetables, very little red meat. I have had lung cancer twice, and lost both upper lobes.

Lyubov in reply to KatherineK

Thank you for responding, Katherine. I'm sorry you've had the beast 2x, costing you both upper lobes. What your oncologist said makes sense. Some of the cancers are so nasty that when deprived of one "food," they mutate to feed off something else. I've read that about prostate cancer, which my husband has & thankfully has been in remission for 3+ years now. If we're both really sick at the same time, it'll be dreadful!

We are trying to eat a healthy diet, too, & rarely have red meat, & avoid all refined sugar. But fresh fruit & vegetables are favorites, along with salmon & other fish, & boneless, skinless chicken breasts which I bake in the oven. So I'm gonna chill out & not worry about sugar. Good luck to you & all best to beat the beast down & out!

KatherineK in reply to Lyubov

Don't feel bad for me, I consider myself lucky because both times it was found early, before it had a chance to spread.

Good idea to chill out and not worry. Worry only causes stress, and stress is not good for us.

Please keep in touch, let me know how you make out with the PET scan.

Lyubov in reply to KatherineK

Thanks for the clarification. I have read that surgery is gives the best chance of a "cure." I'll be happy to let you know the PET results. And with all the encouragement I've received here, I am doing better & committed to the step-at-a-time approach & a day at a time. Hugs, Lyubov (Irene)

KatherineK in reply to Lyubov

Yep, surgery is still considered the "gold standard" in cancer treatment.

The reason to avoid sugary foods prior to the PET is that the solution that is given to read the scan is sugar based and any excess sugar can affect the results as it may cause parts to 'light up' that may just be inflammation caused by an excess of sugar in your diet. The book mentioned in a response earlier is one I recommend to many ' anti cancer - a new way of life' which suggests in any case using the health scare or diagnosis to modify lifestyle including eating more whole foods, less processed foods in general including refined sugar (he recommends agave syrup if you must!), active lifestyle, good quality sleep etc. there are a number of studies underway about dietary links to recovering/being treated for cancer but they are not specific to lung cancer. Indeed some of the recommendations in some of the dietary advice in general may cause discomfort for those with respiratory issues (often suggested to eat cream, full fat things, dairy etc that can contribute to creating mucous in some). As others have said, as yet, there is insufficient evidence to directly link cancer to sugar although obesity (often fuelled by processed food/sugars and inactivity) is the second most avoidable cause of many cancers (after tobacco). hope this helps.

Lyubov in reply to JanetteR57

Everything you write makes a great deal of sense & I appreciate your taking the time to share it with me. I'll follow up on the book you & others have recommended. Since both my husband & I now have cancer (he diagnosed 12/2013, now NED), the recommendations will likely be very helpful for both of us. Thanks & all best wishes.

i think sugar feeds all cells healthy and cancer. there's no way to specifically prevent cancer growth by metering sugar intake. limiting sugar is a good idea for overall health but i prefer to have a few extra pounds on me for when i lose my appetite due to chemo treatments or get diarrhea. i love ice cream and not giving that up, no way.


Your heart and brain need sucrose to function properly. Of course, the natural, less processed sugars are preferable.

Read up on cachexia. When the brain doesn’t get the sucrose it needs to function it tells the body to convert your muscle to sugar. Cancer is also capable of converting other cells to the nutrients it needs to survive.

It’s been more than 8.5 years since my stage 4 lung cancer treatment ended. I had a hot fudge sundae almost every day after my radiation. It doesn’t seem to have hurt me.

First let me say how great that you're a long-term survivor of stage 4 LCa. That's terrific. Also, it's very helpful to know your thoughts on sugar & that sundaes didn't interfere at all with defeating your cancer.

I'm also trying to gain a bit of weight back as my BMI has fallen. So, I have a big breakfast of Kefir, oat cereal, with fruit, plus added egg-white protein. It's almost like a sundae. It's so enjoyable to eat leisurely while reading the morning paper. Would hate to give that up! We don't have desserts but lately I've been having a small serving of plain lactose-free vanilla ice cream in the evening. Would also hate to give that up. Thanks

DenzieModerator in reply to Lyubov

Your breakfast sounds pretty yummy. It has a mixture of flavors and textures that get my gastric juices going! Can you add some raw nuts to that? My favorite breakfast is an oat based granola with raw cashews, plain yogurt, whatever berries look good at the market.

We do chemo, radio and surgery in order to live. Quality of life is important and food is a quality of life issue. I also enjoy an occasional beer or glass of wine. Food=life.

Lyubov in reply to Denzie

Well, our breakfasts are very similar -- and, yes, I often add walnuts or almonds. For small snacks between meals I just love to eat cashews. I never get salted nuts, either. You're right food=life. My mouth is watering thinking abt tomorrow's breakfast!

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