People who drink at least two sugary cooldrinks a week have an increased risk of developing cancer of the pancreas, and researchers suspect the culprit is sugar, a new study shows.
Analyses of data collected on 60,524 Singapore Chinese adults showed that people who drank two or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks a week were at greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with individuals who did not, the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention says.
No link was found between drinking juice and pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most rapidly fatal cancers in adults, with less than 5% of patients surviving five years or more after being diagnosed with the illness.
The study was the first to look at the role fizzy drinks and juice play in the development of pancreatic cancer in Asians, whose diet and lifestyle are becoming more and more Western, the study says. Previous studies had looked at Europeans and Americans.
Participants in the study who consumed two or more sodas per week tended to be younger men who smoke, drink alcohol, eat higher-calorie diets and are less physically active.
They also ate more red meat, the study found.
The findings of the study were adjusted for other dietary factors which have been linked with pancreatic cancer, such as consumption of red meat.
Sugar likely the culprit
"But the adjustments did not change the link between soda and the risk of pancreas cancer," said Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota's division of epidemiology and community health, one of the authors of the study.
"We suspect sugar is the culprit, but we cannot prove it from this study," Pereira told AFP, adding that the researchers only looked at carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages, not sports drinks or diet soft drinks.
"A typical serving of soda is 20 ounces [0.56kg] and contains 65 grams of sugar. By comparison, a typical serving of orange juice is eight ounces [0.2kg] and contains 21 grams of sugar," Pereira said.
Leading source ofadded sugar
Fizzy drinks are "the leading sources of added sugar in the US diet" and greatly contribute to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, and hyperinsulemia - when the amount of insulin in the blood is higher than normal - the study says.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and helps regulate blood sugar.
If the findings of the study are confirmed, then cutting out sugar-sweetened sodas would be a way to reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and this would be "important due to the poor prognosis and minimal effect of conventional treatment methods" for the cancer, the study says.
The data analysed for the soda study came from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which enrolled more than 63,000 Singapore Chinese who lived in government housing estates - as nearly nine in 10 people in Singapore do - and looked at their diets, physical activity and medical history, among others. - (Sapa, February 2010)