Soft Drink Intake Linked to Pancreatic Cancer Risk

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The February issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention published a paper showing a staggering 87% increase in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer associated with an intake of 2 or more sugary soft drinks per week. The group of scientists were careful to exclude other lifestyle risks such as smoking, caloric intake and type II diabetes to extrapolate this risk association.

The proposed mechanism is related to the increased surge of insulin – a known pancreatic cancer promoter after the consumption of sugar laden soft drinks. Fruit juice, another sweet beverage was also tested but the researchers did not find any link with increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

This may be due to the small group looked at for the study, additional nutrients found in juice as opposed to the sugary beverage and the fact that fruit juice is often consumed by people who follow a healthier lifestyle.

However, the study group are confident that the ingestion of the high sugar soft drinks play an independent role in the development of pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive and difficult to manage of all cancers.

The study examined the association between the consumption of soft drinks and juice and the risk for pancreatic cancer among Chinese people residing in Singapore. The data came from the Singapore Chinese Health Study (n = 60,524), and information regarding the consumption of soft drinks, juice, and other dietary items, along with lifestyle factors and environmental exposures, was collected at recruitment to the study. The participants were followed for up to 14 years.

At 14 years and a cumulative 648,387 person-years of follow-up, 140 incident pancreatic cancers developed in people who were cancer free at baseline. After adjustment for confounders such as BMI, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and fruit juice intake, the authors found that those consuming 2 or more soft drinks per week experienced a statistically significant increased risk for pancreatic cancer (hazard ratio [HR], 1.87; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10 – 3.15).

Comment

Whilst there are some inherent differences between the population studied and Europeans and North Americans, there is also much in common in terms of lifestyle, dietary selections and health care. This sobering data should provide added confidence to the recommendation that the consumption of sugar laden soft drinks is a significant health risk, beyond that of obesity and diabetes, and that it occurs at relatively low levels of intake. The periodic consumption of a sugary beverage may well be of little concern, but many people are drinking a few cans of their favourite beverage per day.

Mueller NT, Odegaard A, Anderson K, Yuan JM, Gross M, Koh WP, Pereira MA. Soft drink and juice consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Feb;19(2):447-55. View Abstract

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