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Study links sugary soft drinks to pancreas cancer

Drinking as little as two soft drinks a week appears to nearly double the risk of getting pancreatic cancer, according to a new study.

”People who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87% increased risk — or nearly twice the risk — of pancreatic cancer compared to individuals consuming no soft drinks,” says study lead author Noel T. Mueller, MPH, a research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The beverage industry took strong exception to the study, calling it flawed and pointing to other research that has found no association between soda consumption and pancreatic cancer.

Cancer of the pancreas was diagnosed in about 42,000 people in the U.S. in 2009, according to American Cancer Society estimates, and about 35,240 deaths from the disease were expected. The pancreas lies behind the stomach. It makes hormones such as insulin to balance sugar in the blood and produces juices with enzymes to help break down fats and protein in foods.

* Regular soda drinkers had 87 percent higher risk

* Theory is that sugar fuels tumors

People who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week have a much higher risk of pancreatic cancer, an unusual but deadly cancer, researchers reported on Monday.

People who drank mostly fruit juice instead of sodas did not have the same risk, the study of 60,000 people in Singapore found.

Sugar may be to blame but people who drink sweetened sodas regularly often have other poor health habits, said Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota, who led the study.

“The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth,” Pereira said in a statement.

Insulin, which helps the body metabolize sugar, is made in the pancreas.

Writing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Pereira and colleagues said they followed 60,524 men and women in the Singapore Chinese Health Study for 14 years.

Over that time, 140 of the volunteers developed pancreatic cancer. Those who drank two or more soft drinks a week had an 87 percent higher risk of being among those who got pancreatic cancer.

Pereira said he believed the findings would apply elsewhere.

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