The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Sweet Drinks Boost Your Risk for Cancer?

French people who consume sweet drinks frequently are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

Sugary beverages may increase your risk of developing cancer, according to a French study (BMJ, July 10, 2019). Soda pop is not the only culprit, though. Sweet drinks containing 100 percent fruit juice may also cause trouble.

Sweet Drinks in the Diet:

The prospective cohort investigation called NutriNet-Santé included more than 100,000 middle-aged French adults. They completed a minimum of two validated dietary questionnaires during the roughly nine years of follow-up. All participants were healthy at the outset of the study.

Some People Got Cancer:

More than 2,000 volunteers reported a first diagnosis of cancer during the follow-up time frame, which averaged five years. Analyses show that those who consumed more sweet drinks, including 100 percent fruit juices, were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer. Specifically, an additional half a cup daily increased the likelihood of any cancer by 18 percent and the chance of breast cancer by 22 percent.

There was no association between consumption of artificially sweetened drinks and cancer. However, the authors caution that too few of these French volunteers drank artificially sweetened beverages to draw strong conclusions.

Fruit Juice–Really?

The fact that fruit juices, which usually have a “health halo,” were as risky as soft drinks may be surprising. This is not the first time, however, that scientists have found problems with fruit juices. Earlier this year, a study published in JAMA Network Open demonstrated a link between fruit juice consumption and premature death

Observational studies like this can’t establish cause and effect. Nonetheless, we will be limiting our intake of sweet drinks from now on.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Chazelas E et al, "Sugary drink consumption and risk of cancer: Results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort." BMJ, July 10, 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2408
  • Collin LJ et al, "Association of sugary beverage consumption with mortality risk in US adults: A secondary analysis of data from the REGARDS study." JAMA Network Open, May 17, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3121
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