Drinking fewer sugary drinks could help reduce cancer cases

British Medical Journal study finds link between sugary drinks and cancer risk

Sugar sweetened drinks tax was introduced in Budget 2018 as part of an effort to curb consumer preferences for drinks with heavy sugar content Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Sugar sweetened drinks tax was introduced in Budget 2018 as part of an effort to curb consumer preferences for drinks with heavy sugar content Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

 

Drinking fewer sugary drinks may contribute to a reduction in cancer cases, a new study has suggested.

The study, published on Thursday in the British Medical Journal, reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and and an increased risk of cancer.

The results showed drinking 100 millilitre more sugary drinks per day was associated with an 18 per cent increased risk of overall cancer and a 22 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

While authors said cautious interpretation is needed, the findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating that limiting sugary drink consumption, together with taxation and marketing restrictions, might contribute to a reduction in cancer cases.

It was reported in February that the Government netted € 16.5 million in revenue from a tax on sugary drinks that was projected to net € 30 million in extra revenue for the State.

The sugar sweetened drinks tax was introduced in Budget 2018 as part of an effort to curb consumer preferences for drinks with heavy sugar content.

Researchers in France set out to assess the associations between the consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100 per cent fruit juices), artificially sweetened (diet) beverages, and risk of overall cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancers.

When the group of sugary drinks was split into fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer.

In contrast, the consumption of artificially sweetened (diet) beverages was not associated with a risk of cancer, but the authors warn that caution is needed in interpreting this finding owing to a relatively low consumption level in this sample.

Their findings are based on 101,257 healthy French adults (21 per cent men; 79 per cent women) with an average age of 42.

Participants completed at least two 24-hour online validated dietary questionnaires, designed to measure usual intake of 3,300 different food and beverage items and were followed up for a nine year period (2009-2018).

Several well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels, were taken into account.

Average daily consumption of sugary drinks was greater in men than in women (90.3 ml versus 74.6 ml, respectively).

After the study, 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated (693 breast cancers, 291 prostate cancers, and 166 colorectal cancers). The average age at cancer diagnosis was 59.

The researchers stress that it is an observational study, so they can not establish cause or guarantee detection of every new cancer case.

They said that the study sample was large and the results were largely unchanged after further testing, suggesting the findings withstand scrutiny.