Anti-Cancer Outrage: Let us Eat Cake?

Is this an anti-cancer diet joke?Ready for some anti-cancer nonsense? This weekend, the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation is sponsoring– get this– the Montreal Cake Show!  Last time I checked the anti-cancer diet books, cake was definitely off the menu.  

In fact, the esteemed World Cancer Research Fund/ American Institute of Cancer Research panel of scientists just issued this proclamation:

Diets with high glycemic loads increase the risk of endometrial cancer, the most common form of reproductive cancer in women.

Glycemic loads? When you eat foods with sugars, be they simple sugars like the granules used to sweeten cake or the more complex chains of sugar molecules called carbohydrates, they get converted into glucose. In turn, glucose signals your pancreas to release insulin, which ushers the glucose from your blood into your cells so they can burn it for energy.

Your glycemic response to a food is a measure of how quickly a food causes your blood sugar to rise.  Once upon a time, scientists measured  foods on a scale called the Glycemic Index, with pure glucose assigned the highest value, 100.  Now, they prefer to talk about Glycemic Load because it takes into account a typical portion size of whatever food you’re eating.

No matter how you cut it, though, cake, with its sugar and flours (not to mention whatever’s in that icing), tops the charts when it comes to glycemic response.  You might as well be drinking insulin.

High levels of insulin circulating in the blood create an environment that promotes cancer development. Insulin itself signals all cells, including cancerous ones, to grow and divide. Plus, it increases the activity of a related hormone, called Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), which helps cancer cells evade apoptosis (a fancy word for cell suicide, which all normal cells eventually commit.)  Insulin’s cascade of actions also leads to reductions in your Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, leaving estrogen and testosterone to circulate in your blood.  

So what about breast cancer?  Although admittedly the picture isn’t entirely clear yet, many studies as well as studies of studies have found a link. In a recent analysis of 17 studies involving approximately 5000 women with breast cancer, high IGF-1 levels were associated with an increased risk of estrogen positive breast cancer. Another recent analysis of more than 12,000 women found that diets with high carb intake and high glycemic loads were associated, in postmenopausal women, with estrogen negative breast cancer, considered the more dangerous kind.  

Is that enough doubt to make you reach for the nuts instead? If not, then have a look at this video in which the head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering disses excess carbs. 

Let us eat cake? Ok, one piece occasionally, but sponsoring an entire cake show makes me want to barf.  If Quebec’s Breast Cancer Foundation plans to promote some anti-cancer diet sense, they should start by eating crow. 

5 thoughts on “Anti-Cancer Outrage: Let us Eat Cake?

  1. A few concerns with the interesting rage outlined in this piece. First of all, The Quebec’s Breast Cancer Foundation’s sponsoring of this event is not a new thing, it has been ongoing for awhile now, I think it’s a nice tradition at this point. To the author of this I say your rage is coming a little late to the party so to speak.

    Secondly, the nature of this event is that it is completely volunteer-driven with 100% of the proceeds going to the Foundation (the Cupcake competition supports Kids Help Phone as well, but I’m sure that’s evil in some way right?).

    Thirdly, speaking as an individual who had his own battle to deal with, has four cancer survivors and two recent cancer-related deaths in their family, the issue here should not be anger directed towards a cancer foundation using a cake competition to increase awareness and funding. Case and point logic, people tend to enjoy cake (a piece or two or more), so why not use it for something good like it is supposed to be. Cake is not an evil invention…note that you never hear someone going “Oh no, there’s going to be cake there?! I’d rather get a root canal”.

    Fourthly, and the most important point, so what? Yes we understand your point that cake is a sugar powered invention and leads to high glycemic index, obesity, etc. etc. Thanks for that super news flash. In other news did you know pepperoni is made with nitrates and therefore all pizza is bad for you? You would be the same person upset if the Heart & Stroke Foundation sponsored a pizza bake-off correct? I believe you fail to see the bigger picture. Fact is do you not think the Foundation would use this opportunity to promote low-sugar options? (Just like the Heart & Stroke Foundation would use the pizza to promote healthier topping/crust options in my hypothetical situation). Also, speaking as a cancer survivor myself who will most likely be going to this event, I am happy to enjoy a cupcake or two, because guess what? I’m alive and I can eat some cake. Will I be going for a walk with my wife afterwards? You bet.

    In short, enjoy life and pick something else to get angry about. The fight against cancer doesn’t need unnecessary angry divisions. You want to get upset at something? Pick something that doesn’t divide people. Cancer is bad enough without the infighting. Standing united sounds good to me.


      • I appreciate it! I just hope people don’t misunderstand me, I hate how text cannot convey emotion. I am not upset by any means at the core message of this article, which is regarding eating better to help in the fight (love your blog btw).

        I also accept the possibility that the Cancer Foundation might not be thinking along the same lines as I would like to hope they’re thinking, that taking something unhealthy and adding healthy ideas/tips to it. I like to think the best about people but you’re right, this could just be about cake and sugar, in which case I agree with you that there are better things the Foundation could be backing. We can only hope!

        I just hope I can assume the best in this situation, as I’m sure you do as well, that there’s something beyond just the sugar in their thinking. I’m not a fan of them attaching the pink ribbon to everything (That picture of the cake with the ribbons doesn’t look that healthy, completely agree on that)…pick your battles.

        My grandfather was a doctor/surgeon for 35 years and he always told myself and my family that the best message regarding healthy eating was ‘everything in moderation’ (I think that’s very progressive thinking for that time in history). Enjoy your one piece of cake, just don’t stick your face in it :).

        Stay healthy everyone and thank you for posting my opinion!


  2. How many of the dollars raised actually get to the fight against cancer?
    That is always my first concern when it comes to any fund raising campaign.
    Additionally I refuse to donate to any “Think Pink” campaign. Sorry – but there are other colours of cancer out there. I am a 9 year survivor of Esophageal Cancer. We are one of the lowest ranks of the food chain of research dollars. It doesnt matter that the mortality rate is high – there still are not enough of use overall to warrant prime research money.
    And like James – I also believe that moderation is the key to healthy eating.


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