Pancreatic cancer risk may double from two soft drinks per week

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A report from the American Association of Cancer Research warns that individuals who consume two or more soft drinks per week might double their risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who do not consume the sugary carbonated beverages. The research shows that the effect of soft drink on the pancreas seems to be unique.Sugar in soft drinks may promote cancer of the pancreas because of the effect on insulin in the body.

For 14 years researchers followed 60,524 men and women who were part of the Singapore Chinese Health Study. The study revealed 140 cases of pancreatic cancer. Individuals who consume two or more soft drinks per week were found to have an 87 percent increased risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. Average consumption was five or more sodas weekly.

Study author Mark Pereira, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota points out that individuals who drink five or more soft per week generally have poor overall health habits, but soft drinks seem to promote cancer of the pancreas in a unique way.

"The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth," said Pereira.

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The study, conducted in Singapore should have the same implications in the Western World says the scientist. "Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent health care. Favorite pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to other Western countries."

Despite the findings, Susan Mayne, Ph.D., associate director of the Yale Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health warns that the study is small and should be interpreted with caution. Several other health behaviors were found among the study participants that include smoking and consumption of red meat, also known to increase risk of pancreatic cancer.

The findings according to Pereira are plausible and consistent with findings found in Caucasian populations says Pereira. The results were the same even when taking into consideration other dietary habits. No association to cancer of the pancreas was found among individuals who consumed fruit juices. Soft drinks have also been found to double the risk of diabetes, especially among African American women, and also increase risk of gout for men.

Sugar in soft drinks may lead to abnormal cell growth that increases the risk of cancer of the pancreas, and is worth considering when making dietary choices. The authors concluded that consuming soft drinks “may play an independent role in the development of pancreatic cancer”.

doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-0862

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