We all know that excess consumption of sugary drinks like soda and 100% fruit juices is not good for us. The high quantities of sugar in these beverages have been linked to obesity, which in turn has been shown to be a risk factor for many kinds of cancer. Nevertheless, within the last few decades, the consumption of such beverages has only continued to grow. Now, new research published in the journal The BMJ highlights the possibility of an association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and an increased risk of cancer.
While the study conducted by a team of researchers in France is merely observational, and thus cannot establish cause, the researchers found that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk particularly of breast cancer.
This finding, the authors caution, must be carefully interpreted, and will require other large-scale studies to corroborate similar findings in order to venture a significant link.
"These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% 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," they conclude.
The research team followed 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men; 79% women; average age of 42 years) over nine years (2009-2018), during which time the cohort members’ intake of 3,300 different food and beverage items was observed.
In their analysis, the researchers differentiated specifically the consumption of sugary drinks (sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices) versus artificially sweetened (diet) beverages. From there, they used national databases to determine cancer incidence of the participants.
The study found that on average, men consume more sugary drinks daily than women, and of the participants in the observation, 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed throughout the study follow-up period. These cases included 693 incidences of breast cancers, 291 incidences of prostate cancers, and 166 incidences of colorectal cancers. The consumption of both fruit juices and other sugary drinks was found to be associated with a higher risk of overall cancer while the consumption of artificially sweetened (diet) beverages was not associated with a risk of cancer. Although more investigation will be necessary in order to determine the reasons behind these findings, the scientists explain that high levels of sugar, blood sugar levels, inflammatory markers, and potentially chemical compounds in the beverages could all increase the risk of cancer.