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Small Daily Servings of Juice or Other Sugary Drinks Linked With Higher Cancer Risk

Health + Wellness
kazoka30 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A new study has found that consuming even just a small serving of soda or 100 percent fruit juice per day can significantly increase your risk of developing cancer.


Drinking as little as 100 ml (3.4 ounces) of a sugary beverage per day was associated with an 18 percent increased general risk of cancer and a 22 percent increased risk of breast cancer, according to the study, which was published this week in the British Medical Journal. Soda cans usually contain between 12 and 16 ounces.

For the study, the researchers examined nine years of nutritional data from more than 100,000 French adults who participated in the ongoing Nutrinet-Santé survey from 2009-2017. The average age of participants was 42 years old and 79 percent were women while 21 percent were men.

The survey required them to fill out questionnaires recalling their consumption over 24 hours of thousands of foods and drinks, of which nearly 100 were sugary drinks such as 100% fruit juice, soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and certain hot beverages, USA Today reported.

During the nine-year survey period, there were 2,193 instances of new cancer diagnoses, including nearly 700 cases of breast cancer. Among the highest quarter for consumption of sugary drinks there was a 30 percent higher risk for cancer than the lowest quarter of participants, and a 37 percent higher risk for breast cancer in particular, The New York Times reported.

The risk persisted even as the researchers accounted for other factors that might impact cancer risk, including demographic information, physical activity, smoking history and family prevalence of cancer.

Lead author Mathilde Touvier said the results do not yet prove that sugary drinks cause cancer, as the study was only observational, but the team noted that increased sugar consumption appeared to be a primary driver of increased cancer risk, potentially because it can lead to visceral fat deposits that have been previously associated with the formation of tumors.

"High sugary drinks consumption is a risk factor for obesity and weight gain," Touvier, research director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team at the Paris 13 University's National Health and Research Institute, told CNN. "Obesity is in itself a risk factor for cancer."

Interestingly, the researchers did not find a link between cancer risk and artificially sweetened "diet" drinks. They also suggested that other chemical additives, including 4-methylimidazole — usually found in drinks with a caramel coloring, according to CNN — could be an alternative factor driving cancer risk.

As such, the researchers said more large-scale prospective studies should be done to see if their results are replicated, but so far, "these data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption" to around one glass per day.

They also said that the results add weight to "policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence."

The findings come just months after a Harvard study found that drinking sugary beverages each day could increase your risk of an early death.

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