Sweetened soft drinks are one of America’s favorite beverages. Kids and young adults love nothing better than to sip a fizzy, carbonated beverage as they enjoy a bag of chips or a carton of popcorn at the movies. Despite their sweetness, soft drinks have been blamed for the growing epidemic of child and teen obesity in this country, and now, a new study shows they may increase the risk of one of the deadliest forms of malignancy – pancreatic cancer.
According to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, drinking sugar sweetened soft drinks is associated with a high risk of pancreatic cancer. Researchers came to this conclusion after following the dietary habits of over 60,000 men and women as part of the Singapore Chinese Health Study which extended over a fourteen year period. They found that participants who drank two or more soft drinks per week had an eighty-seven percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who rarely drank them.
Researchers were quick to point out soft drink intake doesn’t necessarily cause pancreatic cancer, just that there’s an association. People who drink more soft drinks often have other unhealthy lifestyle habits that could contribute to the risk of pancreatic cancer. What about unsweetened soft drinks? This study took place in Singapore where most soft drinks are sweetened, so it’s difficult to say whether sugar free ones would have had the same effect. Other studies have also shown an association between soft drink intake and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer – particularly among women.
Why would drinking sweetened soft drinks increase the risk of pancreatic cancer? Researchers believe it has to do with the effect the concentrated sweeteners in soft drinks have on the pancreas. Sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and sugar raise blood sugar levels rapidly which causes the pancreas to pump out large quantities of insulin – which may stimulate the growth of pancreatic tumors. In this study, drinking fruit juice didn’t seem to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer – possibly because fruit juice contains natural sugars that are less likely to cause large spikes in insulin. Soft drinks also increase the risk of obesity which is another risk factor for prostate cancer.
The bottom line? This is one more reason to limit soft drink intake and choose a healthier beverage to enjoy. Soft drinks are not only high in calories, but they also increase the risk of osteoporosis because of their high phosphorus content. Say no to sweetened soft drinks and sip green tea or water instead.