If you’re a sugar junky, you might want to rethink your diet. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer discovered that eating high amounts of carbohydrates and sugar during the year prior to treatment for head and neck cancer increases the risk of cancer recurrence and mortality.
However, eating whole grains and legumes after treatment could be protective and reduce your risk of the cancer recurring and your risk of dying.
Researchers tracked the pre- and post-treatment diets and health outcomes of more than 400 cancer patients whose average age at diagnosis was 61. Volunteers were followed for an average of 26 months after they were first diagnosed and treated for squamous-cell carcinoma of the head or neck.
Patients whose diets contained the lowest amounts of simple carbohydrates, which included refined grains, desserts, and sugar-sweetened beverages, consumed about 1.3 servings daily, compared with about 4.4 servings by patients who consumed the most carbs.
Patients who ate the most carbs and sugars (sugars were in the forms of sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose) in the year before cancer treatment, were at greater risk of dying from any cause during the follow-up period.
More than 69 percent of participants were diagnosed when the disease was at stage 3 or stage 4. During the follow-up period, more than 17 percent of patients experienced recurrence of their cancer, and 42 patients died from it. Another 70 participants died from other causes, according to the study.
Higher mortality rates were found among people with cancers of the mouth who consumed the greatest amounts of total carbohydrates, total sugars, and simple carbohydrates, but similar associations weren’t found among patients whose cancers were located in their throats.
“Our results, along with the findings of other studies, suggest that diet composition can affect cancer outcomes,” said co-author Amy M. Goss, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Other studies have linked diet to oral cancer. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, protected mice from oral cancer. The researchers are planning human tests using cancer survivors who are at risk of head and neck cancer recurrences, which are often fatal.
“We’re developing a safe, natural molecule found in cruciferous vegetables to protect the oral lining where these cancers form,” said Dr. Julie Bauman. “We call this ‘green chemoprevention,’ where simple seed preparations or plant extracts are used to prevent disease.”
An earlier French study found that middle-aged men who drink moderate amounts of wine lower their risk of oral cancers by 20 percent.
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