Feb. 8, 2010 -- Drinking as little as two soft drinks a week appears to
nearly double the risk of getting pancreatic
cancer, according to a new study.
''People who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87% increased risk
-- or nearly twice the risk -- of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals
consuming no soft drinks," says study lead author Noel T. Mueller, MPH, a
research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University
Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The study is published in Cancer
Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American
Association for Cancer Research.
The beverage industry took strong exception to the study, calling it flawed
and pointing to other research that has found no association between soda
consumption and pancreatic cancer.
Cancer of the pancreas was diagnosed in about 42,000 people in the
U.S. in 2009, according to American Cancer Society estimates, and about 35,240
deaths from the disease were expected. The pancreas lies behind the stomach. It makes hormones such as insulin to balance sugar in the blood and produces
juices with enzymes to help break down fats and protein in foods.
Previous studies have produced mixed conclusions about whether consumption
of soft drinks boosts the risk of pancreatic cancer.
So Mueller and his colleagues evaluated 60,524 men and women enrolled in the
Singapore Chinese Health Study, begun in 1993, for up to 14 years, looking at
and whether they got cancer.
They asked all participants about food intake, including sodas and juices.
Mueller says the researchers didn't ask specifically about diet soda
consumption, but that most of the soda drunk was regular or sweetened.
In Singapore at that time, Mueller says, there was very little intake of
"We followed the participants for 14 plus years, keeping track of different
cancers," he tells WebMD.
They found 140 cases of pancreatic cancer and looked back to see if there
was an association with sodas or juices.
Sodas and Pancreatic Cancer Risk: Study Results
The researchers divided the consumption of sodas and juices into three
categories: none, less than two servings a week, or two or more servings a
Those who drank two or more a week -- the average number was five -- had the
87% increased risk, Mueller tells WebMD.
No link was found between juices and pancreatic cancer risk.
Why the link with sugary sodas? Mueller says they are not certain. "What we
believe is the sugar in the soft drinks is increasing the insulin level in the
body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth. That
increase in insulin is what may be leading to the development of the
His team adjusted for other risk factors, such as advancing age, smoking, diabetes, and body
mass index. The risk for pancreatic cancer rises with age.