Sugary western diets may increase risk for cancer -- especially breast cancer -- and metastatic lung tumors, research suggests.  A study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found sugar affects enzymatic signaling pathways and seemed to support past research that suggested certain types of sugar played a role in cancer development.

"A lot of patients are told it doesn't matter what you eat after you are diagnosed with cancer. This preliminary animal research suggests that it does matter," Lorenzo Cohen, who worked on the study, told NBC News.



Sugar is a broad category, but fructose was thought to be the main culprit. Some sugars are important nutrients, and are necessary for generating energy.

Identifying factors that increase one's chances for breast cancer is a public health priority, authors of the study said. Per capita consumption of sugar has surged to more than 100 pounds per year. The rise in consumption, particularly of sugary drinks, was believed to contribute to a global rise in obesity, heart disease and cancer.



The study involved four  mice diet groups. Whereas 30 percent of mice on a starch-control diet  developed measurable tumors, more than 50 percent of the mice on sucrose-enriched diets developed tumors. Lung metastases were also found to be higher on mice with the sugar diet.

"We found that sucrose intake in mice comparable to levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis when compared to a nonsugar starch diet," said Peiying Yang, assistant professor of palliative, rehabilitation and integrative medicine in a public release. "This was due, in part, to increased expression of 12-LOX [which plays a role in cell death] and a related fatty acid called 12-HETE."

The study lends weight to a growing body of research that suggests Western diets have contributed to a rise in risk factors for cancer. Other studies have indicated that many cases of cancer can be attributed to lifestyle choices, including smoking habits and poor dietary choices.