People who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week have a much higher risk of pancreatic cancer, a rare but deadly cancer, researchers from the University of Minnesota reported this week.
People who drank mostly fruit juice instead of sodas did not have the same risk, the study of 60,000 people in Singapore found.
Sugar may be to blame but people who drink sweetened sodas regularly often have other poor health habits, said the lead researcher.
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. Insulin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, is made in the pancreas.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years.
Over that time, 140 of the volunteers developed pancreatic cancer. Those who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87 percent higher risk of being among those who got pancreatic cancer. The researchers said they believed the findings would apply elsewhere.
"Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent healthcare. Favorite pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to other western countries," he said.
Other researchers were cautious. "Although this study found a risk, the finding was based on a relatively small number of cases and it remains unclear whether it is a causal association or not".
Soft drink consumption in Singapore was associated with several other adverse health behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can't accurately control for. Other studies have linked pancreatic cancer to red meat, especially burned or charred meat.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with 230,000 cases globally. Most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are over the age of 65. There is no single cause of pancreatic cancer, but some factors increase the risk of developing it include smoking, obesity, diabetes and certain inherited disorders.
Some researchers believe high sugar intake may fuel some forms of cancer, although the evidence has been contradictory. Tumor cells use more glucose than other cells.
One 12-ounce (355 ml) can of non-diet soda contains about 130 calories, almost all of them from sugar.
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