Dear Dr. Roach: A year ago, I was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer, and was treated with chemotherapy. The last chemo was in June 2016. My post-treatment CT scans have shown me to be negative for cancer. At the beginning of treatment, I read in clinic material that “sugar” is the No. 1 cancer-causing food. At that point, I eliminated sugar from my diet. My doctor was noncommittal about sugar. What are your thoughts on this? Also, is honey the same as granulated sugar? I believe honey is healing.
Dear E.P.: Congratulations on being cancer-free so far. I hope this turns out to be a cure.
While it is true that cancer cells use sugar for energy, most of the cells in your body use sugar for energy, and your brain is absolutely dependent on sugar for energy (whereas most cancer cells can use many sources of energy, including protein and fat).
It is not possible to completely reduce blood sugar (which would be seen by any cancer cells) even by reducing all sugar and other carbohydrates in the diet to 0, as your body can make sugar. More importantly, many healthy foods that have been shown to help fight several cancers and reduce recurrence, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, have naturally occurring sugars.
Certainly, it is not healthy to consume large amounts of any kind of sugar, even honey. Honey is not exactly the same as table sugar: Honey is a combination of two simple sugars, fructose and glucose; whereas table sugar, sucrose, is a single compound containing those same two simple sugars linked together. In the intestine, table sugar is quickly broken down into the same two simple sugars that are in honey. Modest amounts of sugars (the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 37.5 grams of added sugar for men, 25 grams for women, whereas the World Health Organization recommends only 25 grams for both — about 6 teaspoons) are not going to increase your risk of the cancer recurring.
Dear Dr. Roach: When I was 6 years old living in London in 1944, I was using the outside toilet in the school playground and had an experience that has haunted me ever since. Embarrassment has stopped me from repeating it.
I was wiping myself after a bowel movement, but something was stuck to me. I pulled and pulled until I pulled a long white thing, about 10-12 inches, like spaghetti, from my anus. The school bell rang, so I flushed it away and went into school. I was very frightened and later thought maybe it was a tapeworm. I realize this is a strange request, but I wonder if you can tell me what you think about my experience.
Dear Anon.: It was almost certainly part of a tapeworm, probably T. saginata, the beef tapeworm. They were in the U.K. in the 1940s, and your description makes it very likely.
Living conditions in London weren’t that great, and it’s possible you were malnourished and susceptible to these infections; however, even people with perfect immune systems can get them.
According to my research, tapeworms can live up to 25 years if untreated. This was 70 years ago, so I think you have been free from your unwanted guest for decades.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.