Sugary drinks linked to higher cancer risk: Study

A 100ml a day increase in consumption is linked to an 18% increased risk of all cancers

LONDON • People who consume a lot of sugary drinks have a higher risk of developing cancer, although the evidence cannot establish a direct causal link, researchers said yesterday.

The findings of a large study in France do suggest, however, that limiting the intake of sugar-sweetened drinks may help to cut the number of cancer cases in a population.

Consumption of sugary drinks has risen worldwide in the last decades and is linked to obesity, which itself increases one's cancer risk.

The World Health Organisation recommends that people should limit their daily intake of sugar to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake, but also says a further reduction to below 5 per cent, or about 25g a day, would be healthier.

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.

Published in British medical journal The BMJ, this study analysed data from 101,257 French adults - 79 per cent of them women - and assessed their intake of sugary drinks.

It followed them for a maximum of nine years, between 2009 and last year, to assess their risks for all types of cancer and for some specific types, including breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Researchers also adjusted for several confounding cancer risk factors, including age, sex, educational level, family history, smoking and physical activity levels.

 
 
 

The results showed that a 100ml a day increase in consumption of sugary drinks was linked to an 18 per cent increased risk of overall cancer and a 22 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

When the drinkers were divided into those who drank fruit juices and those who drank other sweet drinks, both groups were also linked with a higher risk of overall cancer.

The World Health Organisation recommends that people should limit their daily intake of sugar to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake, but also says a further reduction to below 5 per cent, or about 25g a day, would be healthier.

For prostate and colorectal cancers, no link was found, but the researchers said this might have been because the numbers of these cancers among the study participants were limited.

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

"While this study doesn't offer a definitive causative answer about sugar and cancer, it does add to the overall picture of the importance of the current drive to reduce our sugar intake," said Ms Amelia Lake, an expert in public health nutrition at Britain's Teesside University.

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

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Sugary drinks linked to higher cancer risk: Study'. Print Edition | Subscribe