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Sugary drink consumption may increase risk of cancer

Stephen Padilla
18 Jul 2019
Higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages means more resources for healthcare programmes

Drinking sugary beverages may increase the risks of overall cancer and breast cancer, suggests a study. Of note, 100-percent fruit juices also correlate with the risk of overall cancer.

The consumption of sugary drinks significantly correlated with the risks of overall cancer (n=2,193 patients; subdistribution hazard ratio [HR] for a 100-mL/d increase, 1.18, 95 percent CI, 1.10–1.27; p<0.0001) and breast cancer (n=693; HR, 1.22, 1.07–1.39; p=0.004). On the other hand, drinking artificially sweetened beverages did not increase such risks. [BMJ 2019;366:l2408]

Furthermore, specific subanalyses revealed that consumption of 100-percent fruit juices could increase the risk of overall cancer (n=2,193; HR, 1.12, 1.03–1.23; p=0.007).

“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,” researchers said. [www.hcsp.fr/explore.cgi/avisrapportsdomaine?clefr=632; www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/PPA-Building-Momentum-Report.pdf; BMJ 2016;352:h6704]

The effect of sugary drinks on overweight and obesity onset could partially explain the mechanism behind the increase in cancer risk, especially since excess weight is a strong predictor of mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophageal (adenocarcinoma), stomach (cardia), pancreatic, gallbladder, liver, colorectal, breast (postmenopause), ovarian, endometrial, prostate (advanced) and kidney cancers. [Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2000;24:794-800; Br J Nutr 2011;105:1055-1064; www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Summary-third-expert-report.pdf]

In the current study, however, analyses testing different adjustments or stratifications related to body mass index or weight change revealed comparable results, suggesting that overweight and weight gain might not be the only drivers of the association between sugary drinks and cancer risk, researchers said.

While sugar appears to play a significant role, other chemical compounds such as 4-methylimidazole, an additive in drinks that contain caramel colouring or pesticides which could elevate cancer risk and be present in fruit juice, might also contribute to this association. [J Sep Sci 2017;40:3928-3937; J Agric Food Chem 2003;51:6915-6921; Arch Toxicol 2017;91:549-599]

The association of drinking fruit juices with cancer risk could be partly explained by antioxidants that might interact with tobacco smoke to trigger carcinogenesis. However, this hypothesis does not hold water due to the absence of an interaction between fruit juice consumption and smoking status.

“If these results are replicated in further large-scale prospective studies and supported by mechanistic experimental data, and given the large consumption of sugary drinks in Western countries, these beverages would represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention, beyond their well-established impact on cardiometabolic health,” researchers said.

The current study included 101,257 participants aged 18 years from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort (2009–2017). Repeated 24-hour dietary records designed to register participants’ usual consumption for 3,300 different food and beverage items was used to evaluate consumptions of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.

Multi-adjusted Fine and Gray hazard models, accounting for competing risks, were generated to assess prospective associations of beverage consumptions with the risks of overall, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. Subdistribution HRs were computed.

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Most Read Articles
5 days ago
Cardiac biomarkers are useful for identifying community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) patients with an elevated risk of early and long-term cardiovascular (CV) events, according to a study.
2 days ago
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