New Study Suggests Link Between Sugary Drinks And Cancer Mortality

Sugary drinks have long been associated with negative health effects, particularly when it comes to carbonated sodas, often referred to as soft drinks. WebMD nods to the reality of media hype over sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) while also giving voice to medical professionals wary of consuming the high amounts of sugar bubbling in those brightly colored cans and bottles.

Excessive soda consumption can reportedly lead to kidney damage, strokes, elevated blood pressure, and obesity, particularly in overweight children. Unsurprisingly, nutritionists and health-related organizations such as the CDC have something to say about SSBs, adding to the list of negative human impacts: tooth decay, cavities, non-alcoholic liver disease, gout, and type-2 diabetes.

Drinks in this category obviously include sodas but also fruit drinks, sweetened teas and coffee concoctions, sports drinks, lemonade, and even sweetened fizzy waters. In 2011, Dr. Michael Jacobsen pointed out the pervasive presence of SSBs in modern culture, revealing to WebMD the USDA statistic that typical Americans at the time consumed 16% of their diet from refined sugar – half of it from sugar-sweetened liquids.

With all the heavyweight scientific consensus, what else is there to consider? Well, there's more, apparently. Now, the American Cancer Society is weighing in with a new study linking some of those issues together in ways you may not expect.

Heavy-handed truths

On September 15, 2022, the American Cancer Society (ACS) published comprehensive study results regarding sugar-sweetened beverages and how they affect males and females consuming two or more SSBs per day. Comparing results to those who never drank SSBs, the findings stood out amongst mountains of prior sugar-based research. Unlike other studies on the overall negative health effects of SSB consumption, this study zeroed in on two biggies in the world of health: obesity and cancer.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees that unmitigated excess refined sugar intake can pack on the pounds. But the new correlations revealed by ACS researchers directly tie sugar-laden drinks to obesity-related cancers, leading to a 5% increased risk of associated deaths. These cancers, related to a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in those drinking SSBs on a regular basis, include endometrial, kidney, gastrointestinal, and postmenopausal cancers. A follow-up study on the original 900,000 project participants revealed additional cancers related to SSBs, including colorectal and pancreatic cancer. A separate narrowly targeted research study published in 2021 by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) reported a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and breast cancer.

Habits are simply things we've grown accustomed to doing – but they are changeable with some conscious decision-making and determination. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends refreshing, flavorful alternatives to SSBs such as naturally flavored sparkling water or fresh-brewed teas with lemon, small amounts of juice, mint, or even slices of cucumber.