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Sugary Drinks & Cancer Study

In this series of articles, our medical students will discuss a range of topics from medical ethics to the NHS to public health to medical conditions to clinical governance

“In this large prospective study, the consumption of sugary drinks was positively associated with the risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. 100% fruit juices were also positively associated with the risk of overall cancer. These results need replication in other large scale prospective studies. They suggest that sugary drinks, which are widely consumed in Western countries, might represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.”

An article was released in the British Medical Journal in 2019 portraying a large study that took place over 5 years, following the beverage diet of over 100,000 people. The aim was to study the risk of cancer from drinking sugary drinks.

The study has shown that sugary drinks, including all soft drinks, syrups, sweetened tea and coffee, 100% fruit juices and energy drinks can increase the risk of cancers such as breast cancers and prostate cancers. For a drink to be considered a sugary drink in the study, it had to contain more than 5% sugar. Beverages using zero-calorie sweeteners, such as diet coke, were also used in the study, and it was shown that these do not increase the risk of cancer.


The participants were required to complete various surveys, including surveys every 6 months to provide information about their diet and weight. After 5 years, out of the 101,257 participants, 2193 of them had developed cancer, and these participants were the ones that had drank more sugary drinks. Statistics have also shown that for each extra 100ml of sugary drink consumed, the risk of that person getting cancer increased by 18% compared to consuming 100ml less.


No other studies have been done to show a link between sugary drinks and cancer, therefore, further studies have to be done first to confirm the results of this one. This is because even though a convincing result was produced, the development of cancer in the participants could be to do with other factors. For example, the majority of participants in this study were female (78.7%).

Other studies have shown however that increased consumption of sugary drinks are linked to obesity, which is a known and proven risk factor for cancer. There are other studies that have shown however that a diet high in sugar can increase the risk of colorectal cancers and pancreatic cancers. Although these studies do not directly relate to sugary drinks, we still have sources indicating that sugar is able to have cancerous effects in other ingestible forms.


  • Researchers in The NutriNet-Santé study found that sugary drinks increase risk of cancer

  • Drinks such as 100% fruit juices and coffee with sugar also increase risk

  • As it is the first of its type of study to be done, more research must be done first to confirm results

Extra Reading


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