The high consumption of sweetened food and drink increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet. A heavy intake of fizzy drinks, creamed fruit and sugar in coffee are three common ways of increasing the risk.
Pancreatic cancer is a very serious form of cancer that is possibly caused when the pancreas produces heightened levels of insulin as a consequence of upset glucose metabolism. A well-known way of increasing insulin production is to eat a lot of sugar. Scientists have now, for the first time, shown that the consumption of sweetened food and drink affects a person’s chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
The study began in 1997 when scientists ran a dietary survey of almost 80,000 healthy women and men. This group was subsequently monitored until June 2005. According to the cancer registry, 131 people from this group had developed cancer of the pancreas.
The researchers have now been able to show that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer is related to the amount of sugar in the diet. Most at risk were those who drank high quantities of fizzy or syrup based (squash) drinks. The group who said that they drank such products twice a day or more ran a 90% higher risk than those who never drank them. People who added sugar to food or drinks (e.g. coffee) at least five times a day ran a 70% greater risk than those who did not. People who ate creamed fruit (a product resembling runny jam) at least once a day also ran a higher risk - they developed the disease 50% more often than those who never ate creamed fruit.
“Despite the fact that the chances of developing pancreatic cancer are relatively small, it’s important to learn more about the risk factors behind the disease,” says Susanna Larsson, one of the researchers involved in the study.
“It is perhaps the most serious form of cancer, with very poor prognoses for its victims. Since it’s difficult to treat and is often discovered too late, it’s particularly important that we learn to prevent it,” she says.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD