Study Finds Possible Link between Sugary Drinks, Cancer

15 July, 2019

People who drink a lot of sugary drinks have a high risk of developing cancer, researchers announced last week. However, the evidence cannot yet establish a direct connection between the two.

The researchers said the findings of a large study in France suggest that limiting the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks may help reduce the number of cancer cases.

Drinking sugary drinks has become more common worldwide in the last several decades. Sugar drinks are linked to obesity – the condition of being extremely overweight -- which increases a person's cancer risk.

FILE: Sugary drinks for sale in a store in Kent, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
FILE: Sugary drinks for sale in a store in Kent, Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The study was published in the BMJ British medical journal. It looked at data from just over 100,000 French adults – 21 percent of them men and 79 percent women. The researchers noted how many sugary drinks each of them had, and followed them for up to nine years -- between 2009 and 2018. The researchers measured their risk for all types of cancer, and some individual ones such as breast, colon and prostate cancers.

The researchers adjusted for other possible cancer risks in each individual, including age, sex, educational level, family history, smoking and physical activity levels.

The scientists found that a 100 milliliters increase in sugary drinks was linked to an 18 percent increased risk of overall cancer and a 22 percent increased risk of breast cancer.

The researchers looked at those who drank fruity juices and those who drank other sweet drinks. Both groups, they found, showed a higher risk of cancer overall.

For prostate and colorectal cancers, no link was found. The researchers said this might have been because there was only a limited number of cases of these cancers in the study group.

Experts not directly involved in the work said it was a well-run study, but noted that its results could not establish cause and effect.

Amelia Lake is an expert in public health nutrition at Britain's Teesside University. She said that while this study does not provide a definite cause and effect between sugar and cancer, it does add to the importance of efforts to reduce sugar intake.

"The message from the totality of evidence on excess sugar consumption and various health outcomes is clear," she said. "Reducing the amount of sugar in our diet is extremely important."

The researchers themselves also noted that the results would need to be repeated in future large studies.

The World Health Organization recommends that people should limit how much sugar they have to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake.

Many countries, including Britain, Belgium, France, Hungary and Mexico, have introduced or are about to introduce taxes on sugar with the aim of improving people's health.

I'm Anne Ball.

Kate Kelland wrote this story for Reuters. Anne Ball adapted it for VOA Learning English.

Do you drink sugary drinks? Let us know what you think of this story. Write to us in the comments section below.


Words in This Story

decade – n. a period of ten years

adjust – v. to make an amount or number more exact by considering other information — usually + for

cause and effect – phrase. A relationship between things where one is the result of the other

consume – v. to eat or drink something

various – adj. used to refer to several different or many different things