Sugary Drinks May Up Cancer Risk

The study findings
support the expanding body of evidence, indicating that reducing consumption of
sugary drinks, coupled with taxation and marketing restrictions, could
contribute to a reduction in the incidence of cancer.

The consumption of
sugary drinks has increased dramatically worldwide over the past several
decades, which has led to an increased incidence of obesity. Obesity, in turn,
has been linked to an increased risk of

. However, very few studies have been carried out on sugary drinks and
cancer risk. The present study fills this knowledge gap.


Study Design

  • The study was
    designed to detect any association between consumption of sugary drinks,
    fruit juices (100% concentrate) or artificially sweetened drinks and risk
    of overall cancer, as well as breast, colorectal and prostate cancers
  • 101,257 healthy French adults were included in the
    study from the NutriNet-Sant cohort
  • The study participants included 21
    percent males and 79 percent females
  • 42 years was the average age of
    the participants at the time of inclusion
  • A minimum of two 24-hour online
    validated dietary questionnaires was completed by
    the participants
  • Questionnaires measured the daily
    intake of 3,300 different foods and beverages
  • Maximum follow-up period was 9
    years (2009-2018)
  • Daily intake of sugary drinks,
    juices (100% concentrate), or artificially sweetened drinks were
    calculated from the raw data
  • First cases of cancer reported by
    the participants were verified by medical records and linked to national
    health insurance databases
  • The following established cancer
    risk factors were taken into account:
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Smoking status
    • Family history of cancer
    • Educational attainment
    • Physical activity level

Study Findings

  • Average daily intake of sugary drinks was higher in
    men than in women – 90.3 ml vs.
    74.6 ml
  • 2,193 first cases of cancer were detected and
    validated during follow-up, including the following:
  • 59 years was the average age of cancer diagnosis
  • 100 ml increase in daily intake of sugary drinks
    led to a 18 percent increase in overall cancer risk and 22 percent
    increase in breast cancer risk
  • Consumption of sugary drinks after segregation into
    (i) fruit juices and (ii) other sugary drinks, led to increased overall
    cancer risk in case of both types of drinks
  • No association was observed for prostate and
    colorectal cancers, possibly due to a lesser number of cases for these two
    cancers
  • Artificially sweetened drinks did not show any
    association with increased cancer risk

Interpretation of the Study Findings

The study findings may be interpreted in the light of the
effect of sugar in the drinks on the following parameters, all of which are
linked to increased risk of cancer:

  • Effect on visceral fat, surrounding vital organs
    like the pancreas and liver
  • Effect on blood sugar levels
  • Effect on inflammatory markers

The authors believe
that other chemical compounds such as additives in certain types of sodas could
also play a role in carcinogenesis.

Strengths of the Study

  • The sample size of the study was sufficiently large
    (n = 101,257)
  • The large sample size enabled adjustments for a
    wide variety of potentially influential factors
  • The study results essentially remained unchanged
    upon further rigorous evaluation, indicating that the findings could
    withstand scrutiny

Limitations of the Study

  • Since this was an observational study, the cause
    couldn’t be established
  • Misclassification of beverages could have taken
    place
  • Every new cancer case may not have been detected

Concluding Remarks

The authors felt that the results need to be replicated in
large scale studies in order to unequivocally say that there is a definite link
between sugary drinks and cancer.

They conclude: “These data support the relevance of existing
nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100
percent fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing
restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the
reduction of cancer incidence.”

Funding Source

The study was funded by the Ministry of Health, Public Health France,
the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the National
Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), and the National Conservatory of Arts
and Crafts, France.

References :

  1. Sugary Drinks Linked to Increased Cancer Risk – (http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2408)

Source: Medindia