Study Links Non-Diet Soda Consumption with a Higher Risk of Death in Breast Cancer Patients

When we’re diagnosed with a new illness, we often look to our diets to see how we can help manage the symptoms or keep the illness in check. With cancer, we may find ourselves looking to retool our diets even more. A new study says that for better health outcomes, women with breast cancer may want to take it easy on the non-diet soda.

Researchers from the University of Buffalo examined the connection between soda and breast cancer mortality, finding that patients who reported drinking non-diet soda at least five times a week were 85% more likely to die from breast cancer than women who rarely or never consumed it. They also found that this group was 62% more likely to die of any cause. The results were published online ahead of print March 2 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study’s lead author, Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health PhD candidate Nadia Koyratty, says there haven’t been many studies regarding the relationship between soda and cancer mortality.

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She explains, “This study is one of the few that looks at the prognosis of women with breast cancer with respect to non-diet soda consumption.”

To conduct the study, researchers looked at 927 women between the ages of 35 and 79 who were enrolled in the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer Study. They were followed for a median of almost 19 years. The team examined the causes of death among these women, along with their sugar-sweetened soda consumption.

Participants had taken food frequency questionnaires that included information on what they ate and drank in the 12 to 24 month period before they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Among the 41% of participants who had died by the end of the follow-up period, there was a higher prevalence of non-diet soda consumption than there was among the women who were still living.

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Koyratty says, “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. On the other hand, teas, coffees and 100% fruit juices, unless sugars are added, are healthier beverage options because they do add to the nutritive value through antioxidants and vitamins.”

Due to their levels of sucrose and fructose, sugar-sweetened sodas have higher glycemic loads than other beverages, and researchers say elevated levels of glucose and insulin can contribute to conditions that have been linked with a higher risk of breast cancer. They think the findings of this survey may be helpful for those who have battled or are currently battling the disease.

Jo L. Freudenheim, senior author and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, explains, “There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors alive in the U.S. today. 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.”

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The American Cancer Society says that a diet with excess added sugars may lead to obesity, which can indirectly increase the risk of getting cancer. In addition, they note that some studies have shown a high-sugar diet can impact insulin and related hormone levels in ways that may increase a person’s chances of getting specific types of cancer.

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