Can a daily sugary drink raise the risk of cancer? A new study in the journal Gut suggests the possibility. Researchers say women in an ongoing study were twice as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer before 50 if they drank about a pint of sugary drinks every day, compared to women who drank less than a pint per week. Researchers used data from the Nurses' Health Study II, a study of 116,429 US women, all of whom are nurses. The women reported their eating habits, and were asked to recall what they ate and drank as teenagers, too. The researchers pulled their data from 95,000 participants in that study. Overall, more people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in rich countries in the past 20 years. And consumption of sugary drinks has gone up in the same timeframe.
The number of women diagnosed with bowel cancer among the 95,000 was 109. And while the study took into account factors like family history, lifestyle, and use of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to UPI, the correlation does not equal causation. “We just can't be sure whether the observed association between sugary drinks and bowel cancer under the age of 50 is one of cause and effect,” Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the UK's Open University, tells the Guardian. The study didn’t consider the effects of other risk factors, like eating processed meat or drinking alcohol, per the Hill. But if you’d rather be safe than sorry, what should you do? "Given this data, we recommend that people avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and instead choose drinks like milk and coffee without sweeteners," says Yin Cao, one of the study’s authors, in a news release via Science Daily. (Read more cancer stories.)