FRANCE – A new study published in the British Medical Journal has associated ‘sugary’ drinks including 100% fruit juices with an increased risk of cancer.

Carried out by a team of researchers based in France, the study indicates that high consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices), artificially sweetened (diet) beverages, presents high risk of overall cancer as well as breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancers.

The scientists concluded that sugary drinks, which are widely consumed in Western countries, might represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.

The survey included 101,257 healthy French adults from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study, established in 2009 to identify the relation between nutrition, health and the determinants of dietary behaviours and nutritional status.

Also taken into account in the study included well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels.

The results show that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer.

Higher consumption of fruit juices and other sugary drinks was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer while artificially sweetened (diet) beverages were not associated with a risk of cancer.

The scientists explained the associations were related to the effect of the sugar contained in sugary drinks on visceral fat (stored around vital organs such as the liver and pancreas), blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers, all of which are linked to increased cancer risk.

It was also noted that other chemical compounds, such as additives in some sodas might also play a role in cancer prevalence.

“These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence,” read the report.

The findings add to the growing concerns around sugar in relation to cancer, all pointing to provisions that limiting sugary drinks through taxation or marketing restrictions, may lead to low cancer cases.

Commenting on the report, Gavin Partington, director-general The British Soft Drinks Association, said: “This study reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and an increased risk of cancer, but does not provide evidence of cause, as the authors readily admit.

“Soft drinks are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet.

“The soft drinks industry recognizes it has a role to play in helping to tackle obesity which is why we have led the way in calorie and sugar reduction.”