Soda gives you cancer! Or not!

Playing with fire: Delicious fire.
Playing with fire: Delicious fire.Courtesy esherman
The people of the world wait, their breath held, their tongues clenched between their teeth, open cans of Fresca frozen halfway to their mouths. What do you mean, JGordon? Does soda give me cancer? Or not?


Don’t worry, folks. It’s mostly “or not.” Or is it? Or not.

You may have heard (or read—I call it “hearing with your eyes”) that soft drinks might raise your chances of developing cancer. That was probably hard to hear (or read—I call “listening through your face-holes”), because I know you’re generally pro-soda, and generally anti-cancer, and you had been living your life in the hope that there would never be any conflict between the two. You can probably go on living like that, because it’s unlikely that pop is really going to give you cancer, but you should be aware that the world is a complicated place, and your soda and your cancer are sadly not excluded from the complications.

See, a the results of a study out of the University of Minnesota were recently published claiming that there seemed to be a link between the regular consumption of soft drinks (sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages) and a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer isn’t one of the fun cancers (like, ah, cancer of the… nothing). Although relatively rare, the three-year survival rate for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is about 30%, and the survival rate after five years is only 5%.

The study was based on a 14-year survey of 60,524 men and women in Singapore. Of that group, 142 people developed pancreatic cancer. Examining the lifestyles of those who did and did not develop cancer, the researchers found that people who drank two or more soft drinks a week (5 was the average) had an 87% increase in their chances of getting cancer. And because Singapore is a fairly wealthy country with good health care, the scientists think that the results could apply fairly well to western countries as well.

Oh, no! Right? I can’t give up RC Cola!

Well… eh. The thing to keep in mind is it’s all very complicated. Even if there was a direct link between sift drink consumption and pancreatic cancer, your chances of developing the cancer, even as a soda drinker, would still be very small. But, the thing is, there isn’t necessarily a direct link between the two; there’s an association here, but maybe not a causal link. That is, people who drink soda are more likely to get pancreatic cancer, but we don’t know it’s the soda that causes the cancer.

Soft drink consumption itself was associated with behavior like smoking and red meat consumption, so it’s difficult to say that it’s just the soft-drinking (as it were) that contributes to the increased cancer risk.

Researchers do think, however, that it’s possible that soda could be involved in a causal relationship with the cancer. The high sugar levels in soda probably contribute to increased insulin production and presence in the body, which may contribute to pancreatic cancer cell growth. The study also found, however, that there was no association between fruit juice consumption and pancreatic cancer, which sort of makes me wonder. Lots of fruit juice, after all, is very sugary (even if it’s not quite so sweet as most soda). So does it have something to do with the type of sweetener used? Most soda in this country is sweetened with corn syrup, but that’s not necessarily the case in other countries (see Coca Cola for an example), and there’s some debate as to how the body might react to different sweeteners.

Anyway, you aren’t completely taking your life in your hands if you finish that can of Fresca. (Fresca was probably a bad example, seeing as how it uses artificial sweeteners, and will probably give you a totally different kind of cancer.) You’re better off just taking the dip out of your mouth. It’s gross with Fresca anyhow.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Concerned Izzy's fan's picture
Concerned Izzy's fan says:

So Izzy's sodas, which contain carbonated water and fruit juice, but no artificial sweeteners are okay?

posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 4:15pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

You know, I was curious about this sort of thing. There is that whole high-fructose corn syrup vs cane sugar health debate, but I don't know much about the science on that, and the article I read wasn't clear about what sweeteners are used in Singaporean sodas (or the local versions of internationally marketed soft drinks), so I don't think we'd gain much by my getting into it here.

So I wonder... I don't know about something like Izzy's. They're marketed as using "70% fruit juice and no refined sugars." I don't know if there's something magical about fruit sugars, or if the lack of association between pancreatic cancer and juice-drinking just had more to do with the amount of sweetener present, no matter what type it was.

A bottle of Izzy's, at 26-31 grams of sugar, is pretty comparable to a one cup serving of apple juice, which has about 24 grams of sugar.

A 12 oz. can of coke has about 40 grams of sugar. So that's a lot, but not tons more sugar than an equal amount of juice. Coke is less sugary in some cases, actually. Depending on the juice, a 12 oz can can have 50 or 60 grams of sugar.

I would imagine that the study's authors, who suggest that it's the sugar load in soft drinks that could possibly be contributing to pancreatic cancer rates, have taken this into consideration, but who knows. Maybe juice is less sweet in Singapore, or perhaps it's sold in smaller packages. Or maybe there's something about soft drinks in particular that's adding to the cancer risk. Or, again, maybe there's not a real causal relationship here.

posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 5:08pm
Volcomstone65's picture
Volcomstone65 says:

Pop does not cause kancer

posted on Sat, 02/13/2010 - 2:10pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

With so many conflicting studies, there can only be one possible solution. Moderation.

posted on Sat, 03/13/2010 - 1:52pm
Ashli Robinson's picture
Ashli Robinson says:

I think that there is a slight chance that soda casuses cancer! Many of my elders have drunk soda for years (back when it was called POP) and it has no serious effect on their health. There is a link between irritable skin and frequent soda drinking! A KEE YA!

posted on Thu, 03/25/2010 - 10:21am
AnonymousSis.Poo@.Com's picture

I think Soda are not good for you, because it has to much sugar in it,it cause you to have weak kiddney and a bad back.there is a slight chance that it can cause cancer in some of the body parts. So drink healthy drinks like water and low suger drinks

posted on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 8:55am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think soda is great and i consume every day

posted on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 11:27am
Samarama's picture
Samarama says:

I am not used to calling it soda, so i will be calling it pop. Pop is not good for you, but some pop isn't really bad for you. Diet pop has no calories, or sugar, and is low on fat. One bad thing I can think of is that it has no fiber. i drink non-diet pop rarley, but i never drink diet pop. I would stick with milk. it makes your bones stronger. I absolutley love the show bones, also my own bones, so i protect them.

posted on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 1:45pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What in the world r u talkin bout? Carrot juice is better.

posted on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 1:48pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I'd like to address the terminology confusion here: some folks are used to "pop," others "soda," and still others "soft drinks." (And don't get me started on "coke" or "dope"...)

From here on out, we will all use the term "sweet fizzies" to describe any sweetened, carbonated beverage. It will be a peaceful world, where everyone understands each other.

posted on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 2:03pm
kammy's picture
kammy says:

if it gives u cancer y do u guys selkl it in the store

posted on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 8:34pm

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