Sugar is one of the most common elements in the average Western diet — it can be found in obviously sugary snacks, but also in products one wouldn’t guess contain high amounts of sugar, such as certain breads and savory sauces. Sweet drinks are arguably the most common way many people consume large quantities of sugar, both juice and soda being two popular examples. A recently published study has bad news for consumers who regularly drink these sweetened beverages.
The study was published in The BMJ this week, revealing a possible link between drinking sugar-filled beverages and an increased risk of developing cancer. This spike in cancer risk was associated with consuming very small quantities of sweetened beverages daily: 100ml (3.3oz), or around one-third of the average can of soda.
The study was performed by researchers in France who analyzed data on 101,257 healthy adults from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study. These adults were 79-percent female and 21-percent male with an average age of 42 when they were added to the study. Participants were followed up with for up nine years.
Based on the data, the study found that drinking sugary beverages every day — including 100-percent fruit juice and other sweet liquids — was associated with higher rates of cancer, particularly breast cancer at 693 out of 2,193 cancer cases, prostate cancer at 291 cases, and colorectal cancer at 166 cases. The average age of cancer discovery was 59 years, according to the study; other risk facts like smoking and exercise were accounted for.
The researchers found that participants who consumed around 3 ounces of soda, juice, or similar other beverages daily had an overall 18-percent increase in cancer risk and a 22-percent spike in breast cancer risk. Both juice and other sweet beverages were associated with increased overall cancer risk, but links to specific types of cancers were either not found or too few cases were present in the study for determinations to be made.
Artificially sweetened beverages weren’t found to have the same cancer risk association, but there may not have been enough data to make an adequate assessment of that risk. It’s possible, the researchers found, that some chemical additives in these beverages may play a role in the increased cancer risk, but sugar appeared to be the primary factor.
This isn’t the first study we’ve seen linking cancer and sweets. In March, for example, a study found that consuming too much sugar may fuel the development of different cancers.