How High Blood Sugar Shortens Your Life: Part Three – Cancer Risk 07/13/12

High blood sugar (glucose) is known to increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, macular degeneration of the eye, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. In the previous three articles in this series I explained how high blood sugar increases risk of all of these conditions, with the exception of cancer. This article addresses the mechanisms by which high blood sugar increases risk of cancer and cancer recurrence.

How Does High Blood Sugar Increase Cancer Risk?

In the presence of high blood sugar the pancreas is forced to secrete higher amounts of insulin, which enables cells of the body to extract glucose from the blood stream. Once in the cell glucose is used as a source of energy, stored as energy (in the form of glycogen) or used in alternate pathways to synthesize glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and other important molecules. Insulin not only enables cells to extract glucose from the bloodstream, but it is also a mitogen. A mitogen is a chemicals that stimulates cells to divide. Unfortunately, when cells are stimulated to divide too frequently, the risk of cancer increases significantly.

Many people know that hormone replacement therapy (with estrogen) increases risk of breast and uterine cancer. This is because estrogen is a mitogen. Acting like fertilizer on breast and uterine cells, it stimulates them to replicate at a faster rate. When cells divide too fast they tend to make more genetic errors that can lead to cancerous mutations. As well, when dividing quickly cells cannot put on the brakes and fix genetic mistakes before they become permanent. When cells are dividing more slowly, even if a mistake is made in the DNA, the cell can put on the brakes and activate DNA repair enzymes to fix mistakes (genetic errors) before allowing cell division to proceed once again.

The bad news is that high circulating insulin levels (a result of high blood sugar) does the same thing as too much estrogen. The worse news is that insulin over stimulates cell division rates in many more tissues than does estrogen. The stimulation effect of estrogen is exerted primarily on reproductive tissues and thus, increased risk of reproductive organ cancers is linked to estrogen replacement therapy, and being overweight after age 50 if you are a female (larger fat cells secrete higher amounts of dangerous estrogens as a woman ages – as such, an overweight postmenopausal woman has a three-times greater risk of breast cancer and double the risk of uterine cancer than leaner women in the same age range).


Whereas too much estrogen increases risk of reproductive organ cancers, high insulin levels increase risk of all kinds of cancer, including reproductive organ cancers. This is due to the fact that virtually all tissues in the body contain insulin receptors (and insulin-like growth factor receptors, which can also be stimulated by estrogen as well insulin-like growth factor). As such, it is well documented that high insulin levels increase the risk of the most common cancers seen in our modern society (from colon cancer to pancreatic cancer and everything in between).


More Aggressive Cancers Result

Not only does a high insulin level increase the chance that cancer will develop, but once a cancer cell emerges under these circumstances, the prevailing high blood sugar state enables the cancer cell to divide very quickly, grow into large tumors, metastasize (spread to other tissues) and behave very aggressively. This stems from the fact that in 95% of cases cancer cells are completely dependent on blood sugar (glucose ) as their exclusive energy source. Thus, a high blood glucose state provides cancer cells with sufficient energy to keep dividing rapidly.


This is why diabetics who develop cancer have a worse prognosis than non-diabetic, for virtually all types of cancer. As well, diabetics who develop cancer are less responsive to cancer therapy, as controlling the spread of cancer in a diabetic is extremely difficult.  The recurrence of cancer in a cancer survivor is also worse in high blood sugar state. Thus, diabetics have greater cancer recurrence. On the contrary, studies have shown that breast and colon cancer survivors, who perform endurance exercise, stay lean (low body fat) and keep their blood sugar in a safe range,  have up to a 50% reduced recurrence rate compared to cancer survivors who do not implement these lifestyle practices.


The Bottom Line

Although it is not emphasized enough in the blood sugar discussion, high blood sugar (glucose) and high insulin levels are major contributing factors to the high rates of cancer we see in most developed countries. With respect to achieving a safe blood sugar level to prevent cancer, the body of evidence suggests that aiming for a fasting blood glucose level below 5.0 mmol/L is a good target.

On your next annual physical exam ask your doctor to provide you with your fasting blood sugar level results to ensure you are in the ideal range for longevity. If you are above 5.0 mmol/L then cut back on refined sugars and starchy carbohydrates a bit more and ramp up your endurance exercise regime (either extend the amount of time per session, or do more sessions per week). Taking Adeeva Body Burn will also likely help bring your blood sugar and body fat down, as explained in my video at

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