Obesity increases an individual’s risk of developing many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. One of the factors driving the rise in obesity rates is thought to be the use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sweetener in soft drinks. Goncalves et al.found that ingestion of HFCS promotes the growth of intestinal cancer even in the absence of obesity in mouse tumor models. An enzyme in tumors (ketohexokinase) converts fructose to fructose-1-phosphate, which alters tumor cell metabolism and leads to enhanced cell growth. Whether a similar process occurs in humans remains to be seen.
Excessive consumption of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is associated with obesity and with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Whether HFCS contributes directly to tumorigenesis is unclear. We investigated the effects of daily oral administration of HFCS in adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) mutant mice, which are predisposed to develop intestinal tumors. The HFCS-treated mice showed a substantial increase in tumor size and tumor grade in the absence of obesity and metabolic syndrome. HFCS increased the concentrations of fructose and glucose in the intestinal lumen and serum, respectively, and the tumors transported both sugars. Within the tumors, fructose was converted to fructose-1-phosphate, leading to activation of glycolysis and increased synthesis of fatty acids that support tumor growth. These mouse studies support the hypothesis that the combination of dietary glucose and fructose, even at a moderate dose, can enhance tumorigenesis.