A recent study has allegedly linked soft drink consumption to an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Mark Pereira, et al., “Soft Drink and Juice Consumption and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer: The Singapore Chinese Health Study,” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, February 2010. Using data from 60,524 participants enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study, researchers determined that individuals who consumed more than two carbonated, sugar-sweetened beverages per week “experienced a statistically significant increased risk of pancreatic cancer… compared with individuals who did not consume soft drinks after adjustment for potential confounders.” In addition, the study did not find a similar association for juice consumption. “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,” one author was quoted as saying.

Other scientists, however, have noted some limitations of the study, which was the first to examine the potential relationship between sugar sweetened beverages and pancreatic cancer in Chinese men and women. “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. Soft drink consumption in Singapore was associated with several other adverse health behaviors such as smoking and red meat intake, which we can’t accurately control for,” stated one researcher with the Yale School of Public Health.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) has also contested the findings, pointing to the many other factors, such as age, smoking and race, known by the National Cancer Institute to increase pancreatic cancer risk. “The authors are skipping several steps in trying to connect soft drinks with pancreatic cancer, including an allegation regarding an increase in insulin production,” concluded ABA in a February 9, 2010, press statement. “This was reaffirmed by a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that consumption of added sugar or of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages is not associated with overall risk of pancreatic cancer.” See BusinessWeek, FoodNavigator-USA.com and Yahoo! News, February 8, 2010.

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