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Sodas may be linked to higher risk of pancreatic cancer, but about that risk...

February 8, 2010 |  4:24 pm

SodaSugar-sweetened sodas -- with their high-glycemic load eliciting natural suspicion -- have been linked with varying degrees of success to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. So scientists have been trying to clarify the precise nature and size of that risk.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health noted that most of the studies along these lines have been in people of European descent. So they decided to cull through data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, assessing whether sugar-sweetened soft drinks and juices had a noticeable effect in a different population.

Yes on soft drinks, they concluded; no on juices. In fact, they said, consumption of two or more soft drinks a week was linked to an 87% increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Here's the abstract, published online today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and the press release from the American Assn. for Cancer Research, which publishes the journal.

And here's a more thorough explanation -- from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network -- of pancreatic cancer risk as it relates to nutrition. (Pity the poor pancreas having to respond to heavy doses of sugar.)

It's worth pointing out that the average person's risk of pancreatic cancer is low, so even a doubled risk would be little reason to panic. It's also worth noting that people who drink a lot of soda probably aren't health and nutrition zealots.

As the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network notes, wisely and cautiously, in its information about glycemic load: "Additional investigation is needed."

Here are pancreatic cancer statistics and risk factors from the American Cancer Society, plus overall cancer cases and deaths in the United States.

All that being said, pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate, so anything we learn about the disease -- or any clues we have to its development and progression -- is welcome. The new findings may be a clue.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times