Study: Breast Cancer Patients Who Drink Sugar-Sweetened Soda at Increased Risk of Death

March 15, 2021
Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

Sodas have significantly high sugar levels and a lack of nutritional value, which may contribute to conditions that can lead to breast cancer.

New research suggests that patients with breast cancer who regularly drink sugar-sweetened sodas are at an increased risk of death from any cause and from breast cancer in particular.

Compared to women who never or rarely drank non-diet soda, those who reported drinking non-diet soda 5 times or more per week had a 62% higher likelihood of dying from any causes and were 85% more likely to die from breast cancer specifically, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

First study author Nadia Koyratty, a PhD candidate at the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, said research on soda and breast cancer is relatively new, especially considering that lifestyle recommendations on breast cancer are so important. Despite negative health outcomes associated with drinking soda, such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, many people continue to drink sugar-sweetened sodas.

“This study is one of the few that looks at the prognosis of women with breast cancer with respect to non-diet soda consumption,” Koyratty said in a press release.

Investigators assessed the relationship between sugar-sweetened soda and both all-cause and breast cancer mortality among 927 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, between the ages of 35 and 79 years. Participants were enrolled in the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer Study and were followed for a median of nearly 19 years.

The study used a food frequency questionnaire to assess participants’ food and beverage intake in the 12 to 24 months prior to diagnosis of breast cancer. Of the more than 900 women diagnosed with breast cancer, 41% had died by the end of the follow-up period, according to the press release. Among those who died, the investigators found a higher percentage of women who reported high frequency of sugar-sweetened soda consumption compared to the women who were still living.

Notably, the associations did not change when researchers included diet soda consumption as a variable. In the press release, Koyratty explained that sodas have high sugar levels and a lack of nutritional value, which may contribute to conditions that can lead to breast cancer.

“Non-diet sodas are the highest contributors of sugar and extra calories to the diet, but they do not bring anything else that is nutritionally beneficial,” Koyratty said in the press release. “On the other hand, teas, coffees, and 100% fruit juices, unless sugars are added, are healthier beverage options because they do add to the nutritive value through antioxidants and vitamins.”

Sugar-sweetened sodas contain large amounts of sucrose and fructose, which give them the highest glycemic load compared to other foods or beverages. These higher concentrations of glucose and insulin may lead to conditions that have been associated with higher risk of breast cancer, the researchers said.

“There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors alive in the US today,” said senior author Jo L. Freudenheim, PhD, in the press release. “We need to better understand the factors that affect their health.”

REFERENCE

Not so sweet: UB study finds increased risk of death among breast cancer patients who drink sugar-sweetened soda [news release]. University at Buffalo; March 9, 2021. http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2021/03/009.html. Accessed March 11, 2021.