New study links sugary drinks to an increased risk of cancer

12 July 2019 - 15:55 By AFP Relaxnews
New research has found that drinking sugary beverages may be linked to an increased risk of cancer.
New research has found that drinking sugary beverages may be linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Image: iStock/Rez-art via AFP Relaxnews

New large-scale French research has found more evidence to suggest that a high consumption of sugary drinks could be linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Carried out by researchers at Université Paris 13, The French Public Health Agency, and Avicenne Hospital, the new study looked at 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men and 79% women) with an average age of 42 years at the start of the study.

The participants were asked to complete at least two 24-hour dietary questionnaires, which measured their usual intake of 3,300 different foods and beverages and allowed the researchers to calculate their daily consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices) and artificially sweetened (diet) beverages.

Participants were then followed up for a maximum of nine years, with the researchers using participants' reports and medical records to record the number of breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancer cases during this time.

The findings, published by The BMJ on Thursday, showed that after taking into account well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels, consumption of both fruit juices and other sugary drinks was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer. 

More specifically, 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 of breast cancer. 

However, no association was found between sugary drinks and prostate and colorectal cancers, although the researchers noted that the numbers of these cancer cases were lower than the number of breast cancer cases included in the study.

The team also failed to find a link between the consumption of artificially sweetened (diet) beverages and a risk of cancer, but again added that caution is needed when interpreting this finding, as the consumption of diet drinks was low in this group of participants.

Although the findings do not show cause and effect and further research is still needed in other large-scale studies, the researchers noted that the study's sample size was large and they took into account a large number of potentially influencing factors.

They concluded that the findings add to a growing body of evidence that indicates limiting sugary drink consumption, and implementing taxation and marketing restrictions, could help to reduce the number of cancer cases.