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Drinking sugary beverages associated with colon cancer risk

August 1, 2021

Research we're watching

Could sugary drinks be behind the recent increase in early-onset colorectal cancer cases? A study published online May 6, 2021, by the journal Gut hints that it might. Researchers examined the dietary patterns of 95,464 nurses who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II from 1991 to 2015. They also asked some 41,000 of the women about their diet as teens (ages 13 to 18). In total, 109 participants went on to develop colorectal cancer before age 50, which is considered early. The researchers found that adult women who reported drinking two sugar-sweetened drinks a day had more than double the colorectal cancer risk as women who drank less than one sweetened drink per week. The researchers also found for each sweet drink per day that the women drank as teens, they had a 32% higher risk for early-onset colorectal cancer as adults.

The researchers speculated that the recent rise in the number of colorectal cancer cases diagnosed before age 50 is connected to an increase in sugary drink consumption — particularly among young adults. The American Cancer Society now recommends that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 45 instead of age 50, and possibly earlier in people with a family history of the disease.

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About the Author

photo of Kelly Bilodeau

Kelly Bilodeau, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Kelly Bilodeau is the former executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later went on to become a managing editor at HCPro, a Boston-area healthcare publishing company, … See Full Bio
View all posts by Kelly Bilodeau


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