Soda linked to breast cancer patient deaths

Though more research is needed, researchers believe the study is proof that diet may impact longevity after breast cancer.

Dave Yasvinski 3 minute read March 10, 2021

Researchers followed the diets of more than 900 breast cancer patients. Getty

Breast cancer patients who reach for sugar-sweetened soda on a regular basis are at an increased risk of death generally and from breast cancer specifically, according to a new study.

The research, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that women who consume the non-diet sugary beverages at least five times per week were 62 per cent more likely to die from any cause and 85 per cent more likely to succumb to breast cancer than soda-shunning patients.

“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,” said Nadia Koyratty, the lead author and a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Buffalo. “On the other hand, teas, coffees and 100 per cent fruit juices, unless sugars are added, are healthier beverage options because they do add to the nutritive value through antioxidants and vitamins.”

Sugar-sweetened soda contains a higher glycemic load than other beverages because of the large amounts of sucrose and fructose used in production. Higher levels of glucose and insulin are connected to other conditions that may elevate the risk of breast cancer, the researchers said.

The relationship between breast cancer and soda has not been adequately explored, Koyratty said, but the high prevalence of the disease places added importance on helping patients make lifestyle choices that increase their overall quality of life. Sugary beverages still fly off the shelves despite the negative consequences — such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and weight gain — associated with continued consumption.

To better understand the relationship between soda and both breast cancer mortality and all-cause mortality, researchers followed a group of 927 women — aged 35 to 79, with a cancer diagnosis — for a median of around 19 years. The women, who were enrolled in the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study, were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed their food and beverage intake in the two years before they received their diagnosis.

Forty-one per cent of the patients had died by the end of the follow-up period with a higher percentage of deaths coming from women who said they drank large amounts of soda. The findings did not change when diet cola was introduced as a variable.

“There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors alive in the U.S. today,” said Jo L. Freudenheim, senior author and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Buffalo. “We need to better understand the factors that affect their health.

“While we need more studies to confirm our findings, this study provides evidence that diet may impact longevity of women after breast cancer.”

One in eight Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, or around 25,000 people per year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Anything that can help extend the lives of survivors is a priority for researchers. “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.

Dave Yasvinski is a writer


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