For some time now, experts have been connecting sugary drinks with a wide range of health risks.

Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are just some of the conditions that past studies have related to sweetened drinks. Some studies in rodents have supposed that the added sugar in soft drinks can drive the spread of cancer and fuel tumor growth.

Now, new research further explores the relationship between sugary drinks and cancer. The observational study, appearing in The BMJ, discovers an association between a high intake of sugary drinks and cancer.

Eloi Chazelas, from the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center in France, is the pioneering author of the study.

Studying sugary drinks and cancer risk

ChazelChazelas and team investigated the connections between the intake of sugary drinks and various forms of cancer in 101,257 French adults aged 42 years, on average. The researchers collected the data from the nutrient-Santé study.

The drinks they studied included "sugar-sweetened beverages", for example, soft drinks, syrups, fruit drinks, 100% fruit juices without any added sugar, sports drinks, milk-based sugary drinks, and energy drinks.

Photo by Angelo Moleele / Unsplash

Also, the researchers weighed artificially-sweetened drinks, that is, "all beverages containing non-nutritive sweeteners, such as diet soft drinks, sugar-free syrups, and diet milk-based beverages."

Using 24-hour online food questionnaires, the researchers estimated the participants' consumption of 3,300 different sorts of foods and drinks. Moreover, clinical observation of the participants lasted for up to 9 years.

During this time, the researchers found out the risk of "overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer."

Chazelas and colleagues accounted for potential confounders, comprising age, sex, education, hereditary risk of cancer, and lifestyle aspects — for example, exercise patterns and smoking behavior.

A 22% higher risk of breast cancer

Over the follow-up period, 2,193 people grew cancer for the first period; they were 59 years old at the time of diagnosis, on average. These cases included 693 of breast cancer, 291 of prostate cancer, and 166 colorectal cancer.

The analysis showed that for a regular increase of 100 milliliters in the intake of sugary drinks, the risk of overall cancer raised by 18%, and the risk of breast cancer grew by 22%.

Chara Mangana, enclosing nature in a jar.
Bee Naturalles Laboratory
Euboea, Greece

by Alexis Kamitsos
Photo by Bee Naturalles / Unsplash

When the researchers examined the risk for 100% fruit juices separately, these also promoted the risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. Nevertheless, the study found no connections with colorectal cancer or prostate cancer.

By contrast, diet drinks did not raise cancer risk. The experts emphasize that people who used diet drinks did so in very small amounts, so they recommend interpreting this particular result with caution.

This information supports the relevance of existing nutritional suggestions to limit sugary drink using, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing limitations targeting sugary drinks, which might contribute to the decrease of cancer occurrence.