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The #1 Worst Drink for Colorectal Cancer, New Study Suggests

You may want to stick with water.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

You probably don't need to be told that opting for sugary soft drinks isn't the best choice of beverage when it comes to your health. They can take a toll on your heart health, they can wear away at your teeth, and they can even have a negative impact on fertility, among other issues.

Now, a new study finds that sugary beverages can increase your risk of dying from colorectal cancer.

In the study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, among other institutions, looked at a group of more than 120,000 participants across two prospective cohort studies in the United States. They compared data about the incidence of colorectal cancer and death from the disease to information about how much participants were consuming sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and how much fructose was in their diet.

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science



"SSB and total fructose consumption were associated with increased incidence and mortality of proximal colon cancer, particularly during later stages of tumorigenesis," the study authors wrote. "Although requiring confirmation in other large cohorts, these observational data support findings from a recent animal study that suggested a direct tumor-enhancing role of dietary sugars in colorectal tumorigenesis."

In other words, drinking these beverages was linked to a higher chance of getting proximal colon cancer (i.e., cancer in the first and middle parts of the colon) and of dying from those cancers, especially when the formation of the tumors is already well under way. While the researchers note that further studies are needed over long periods of time, sugary soft drinks certainly seem to worsen colorectal cancer tumors.

You don't need to worry as much if you used to drink a lot of soda as a child, but you've been drinking it less often in your adult life. The study found that recent SSB consumption (in the past 10 years) was linked with increased risk in a way that past consumption was not. Still, if you're drinking soda every day, you may want to cut back.

"Our results provide further support for current dietary guidelines and policies to limit SSB consumption to improve the health of the general population," study authors noted.

Plus, colorectal cancer isn't the only kind of cancer that sugary beverages have been linked with. Previous studies have shown that they're also associated with a higher risk of getting liver cancer. Additionally, they could leave you in greater danger of pancreatic cancer, and they may increase the odds of you getting endometrial cancer, among others kinds of cancer.

If you're looking to cut back on soda and want some healthier options to reach for instead, consider these 25 Healthy, Low-Sugar Soda Alternatives.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara
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