Soda and other sweet drinks tied to risk for some rare cancers

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(Reuters Health) - People who drink lots of soda or other sugary beverages may have a higher risk of developing rare cancers in the gallbladder and bile ducts around the liver, a Swedish study suggests.

Little is known about the causes of biliary tract and gallbladder tumors, but emerging evidence suggests obesity as well as elevated blood sugar levels that are a hallmark of diabetes may increase the risk of these malignancies.

Because sodas and other sugary drinks have been linked to high blood sugar and weight gain, researchers wondered if these beverages might play a role in these types of cancer, said lead study author Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

To explore this possibility, researchers analyzed survey data on the eating and drinking habits of more than 70,000 adults then followed them for more than 13 years on average to see whether cancers got diagnosed.

Only about 150 people developed biliary tract or gallbladder cancers during the study period.

But compared with people who avoided sugar-sweetened drinks altogether, individuals who consumed two or more juice drinks or sodas, including artificially sweetened sodas, a day had more than twice the risk of developing gallbladder tumors and 79 percent higher odds of getting biliary tract cancer, the study found.

SEE ALSO: Coca-Cola through the years

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Coca-Cola through the years, Coke soda
The Atlanta based Coca-Cola Co., announced in New York Tuesday April 23, 1985 file photo a change in the 99 year old secret formula for the soft drink. This collection details the history of shapes of the soft drink's bottles. Sold at fountains in Atlanta at the start it was first bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (AP Photo)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s: Teenaged girl with bottle of Coca-Cola. (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) *23.03.1912-16.06.1977+Physiker, Raketenforscher, D/USA- Porträt mit Coca-Cola-Flasche- 1963 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
The bottles of Coca-Cola are shown May 5, 1986. (AP Photo/Joe Holloway, Jr.)
FRANCE - MAY 01: Centenary of Coca-Cola In France In May, 1986. (Photo by Didier CONTANT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
The bottle used by Coca-Cola for export to France, stands by the prototype of the very first Coke bottle shown May 5, 1986 in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/Joe Holloway, Jr.)
BOHOL, PHILIPPINES - 1988/01/01: A lemur clings to a coke bottle. . (Photo by Roland Neveu/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Bottles of Coca-Cola, Tab, and Sprite on the shelf of a grocery store in New York City, USA, September 1988. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 16: Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen on the shelf at Tower Market January 16, 2004 in San Francisco, California. Coca-Cola is being investigated by U.S. regulators over allegations raised by a former employee that it had inflated its earnings. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 16: Cans of Coca-Cola are seen on the shelf at Tower Market January 16, 2004 in San Francisco, California. Coca-Cola is being investigated by U.S. regulators over allegations raised by a former employee that it had inflated its earnings. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 20: Bottles of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke are displayed on a shelf in an Associated Supermarket in New York Thursday, October 20, 2005. Coca-Cola Co. said third-quarter profit surged 37 percent, the biggest gain in more than a year, as sales rebounded in the U.S. and demand for Powerade sports (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
PARK RIDGE, IL - NOVEMBER 07: 2-Liter bottles of Vanilla Coke as seen in a grocery store November 7, 2005 in Park Ridge, Illinois. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. has said it plans to discontinue its Vanilla Coke in the US by the end of the year. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 19: A general view of the new aluminum Coca-Cola bottle at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall 2009 Collections at Bryant Park on February 19, 2009 in New York City (Photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The Coca Cola Company)
Bottles of Coca-Cola Co.'s Coke brand soda sit on a shelf behind the bar at Smith & Wollensky in New York, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 22, 2010. Coca-Cola Co., the world's biggest soda maker, agreed to buy the North American operations of bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., more than six months after PepsiCo Inc. moved to bring its bottlers in-house to cut costs. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Coca-Cola bottle is displayed during a preview of the High Museum's new exhibit, "The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100", Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Atlanta. The exhibit, opening Feb. 28, explores the iconic design and creative legacy of the familiar soda bottle as art. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
A piece by artist Andy Warhol, left, is displayed next to a case of Coca-Cola bottles at the High Museum's new exhibit, "The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100", Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Atlanta. The exhibit, opening Feb. 28, explores the iconic design and creative legacy of the familiar soda bottle as art. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Rita Ora attends photocall to celebrates 100 years of the Coca-Cola Contour Bottle at the Coca-Cola Contour Centenary Bar on March 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
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"Soda consumption has been inconsistently associated with risk of biliary tract cancer (only one prior study) and other cancers in previous similar studies," Larsson said by email.

The current study "is the first study to show a strong link between consumption of sweetened beverages, such as soda, and risk of biliary tract cancer," Larsson added.

At the start of the study, participants completed food and drink questionnaires that asked how many sodas or juice drinks they had consumed in the past week and how much they typically consumed during the previous year.

When they answered these questions in 1997, participants were 61 years old on average. About half of them were overweight and roughly 25 percent were current smokers.

Researchers excluded people with a previous cancer diagnosis or a history of diabetes.

The people who drank two or more sodas or sugary beverages a day were more likely to be overweight and eat a higher-calorie diet with more sugar and carbohydrates and less protein and fat.

The increased risk of gallbladder and biliary tract tumors persisted, however, even after researchers adjusted for whether participants were overweight.

Because the study is observational, the findings don't prove soda and sugary drinks cause cancer.

It's also possible that because researchers only had data on drinking habits at the start of the study, the findings might have been influenced by changes over time in the beverages people consumed, the authors note in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers also lacked precise data to assess how often the sugary drinks people chose were diet sodas, said Dr. Margo Denke, a former researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas who wasn't involved in the study.

Even so, "this study suggests that there is more than a plausible link; the incidence of biliary and gall bladder cancer was higher among individuals who consumed more sodas and juices," Denke said by email.

The exact reasons for the connection between sodas and these tumors may be unclear, but the message for consumers is still simple, said Dr. Igor Astsaturov, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia who wasn't involved in the study.

"Obviously, this finding signals again and again that healthy lifestyle is the key to cancer-free life," Astsaturov said by email. "Regardless of the cause, it is easy enough to quench the thirst with water to stay fit and healthy."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/29ISzJV JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online June 8, 2016.

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