People who consume soft drinks increase their risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared with those who do not consume soft drinks, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (February 2010;19[2]:447-455).

Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare but deadly, with only 5% of people who are diagnosed alive 5 years later, according to the press release announcing the findings

For 14 years Mark Pereira, PhD, associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues followed 60,524 men and women to investigate whether higher consumption of soft drinks and juice increased the risk of pancreatic cancer in Chinese men and women. Through in-person interviews, study participants provided information about consumption of sugary-beverages, lifestyle, and environmental exposures.

Over the course of the study, 140 cases of pancreatic cancer were reported. Those who consumed ≥2 soft drinks per week had an 87% increased risk compared with individuals who did not consume sugar-sweetened beverages. “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,” explained Dr Pereira.

“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,” concluded Susan Mayne, PhD, associate director of the Yale Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.