Woman drinking from a cup with sugar

Sugary Drinks Link to Colon Cancer Risk Reinforced [2022 Study]


  • New data confirms that sugary drinks increase colon cancer risk.
  • Artificially sweetened drinks may lower colon cancer risk.
  • Sugary drink consumption may be responsible for the increase in early-onset colon cancer cases.
  • Health authorities now recommend colon cancer screening from the age of 45.
  • Sugar consumption and obesity go hand-in-hand, increasing all-cancer risks together. 

Do you increase your colon cancer risk if you drink sugary beverages? Does sugar feed cancer? We know that excess sugar is unhealthy. And we understand that cells require glucose to function and grow, and that cancerous cells need 20 times more glucose than healthy ones. Cancer’s links to sugar consumption are, however, more intricate and indirect than we might think.

New Study Links Colon Cancer Risk to Sugary Drinks

In a massive study spanning from 1982 to 2016, doctors recorded the sugary and artificially sweetened drinks consumption of 934,777 cancer-free patients. They looked at the deaths resulting from cancer in the study group and looked for links between sugary drink consumption and cancer mortality. 

They found that sugar-sweetened beverages raised the risk of some cancers, among them colorectal cancer, but acknowledged that sugar itself may not be directly responsible for these results. 

Researchers noted that study participants who drank two sugary drinks per day did not raise their all-cancer mortality. This group did, however, increase its odds of dying from obesity-related cancers. And obesity can trigger a wide range of cancers, including colon cancer. Thus, the consumption of sugary drinks may indirectly increase colon cancer risk. 

Interestingly, once they accounted for obesity as a risk factor, researchers found that sugary drinks alone did not increase cancer risk for most types of cancer. Notable exceptions were colorectal cancer and kidney cancer. 

Sugary drinks increased the risk of both colorectal and kidney cancer, regardless of the presence of obesity.

If you down two sugary drinks a day, you increase your colon cancer risk — even if you are fit and otherwise healthy. Obesity increases the risk further, but sugary drinks alone can hurt the health of your colon.

Sugar consumption increases the odds of obesity, so the causation between sugar and colorectal cancer is complex. 

Artificially Sweetened Drinks May Lower Risk of Some Cancer Types But Raise Colon Cancer Risk

If you choose to forego sugary drinks for artificially sweetened ones, you will increase your risk of pancreatic cancer. On the other hand, artificially sweetened drinks may not impact colon cancer risk. Researchers have even found that beverages with artificial sweeteners may reduce your colon cancer risk, though the effect may be the result of the substitution of sugary drinks with artificially sweetened ones. 

The possible colon cancer risk-reducing effects of artificially sweetened drinks have surprised some researchers. The authors of this 2021 study concluded that further studies about sugary drinks and cancer should consider body mass index (BMI) as a mediating factor. 

The Sugary Drinks-Colon Cancer Link Is Not New

Other, slightly older studies exist that have noted the link between sugary drinks and colon cancer risk. 

A 2021 study explored this link from 1991 to 2015 in 95,646 nurses. Of the participants, 109 developed colorectal cancer before the age of 50. 

The study found that the adult participants who drank two sugary drinks per day doubled their colon cancer risk. Those who consumed sugary drinks in their teens increased their risk even more. 

For every additional drink per day as youngsters, the study participants increased their risk of developing colon cancer as adults by 32%. 

Sugary Drinks May Be Responsible for Early-onset Colon Cancer

More and more young adults develop colon cancer before the age of 50. The rate of increase in early-onset cases has taken an unsettling turn since 1994, and doctors believe sugar drink consumption may have a hand in that. Health authorities now recommend colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45. 

According to the CDC, between 2011 and 2014, 63% of young people and 49% of adults drank sugary drinks on a given day. The resulting increase in colon cancer risk may explain the increase in early-onset cases. 

Another factor involved in the early-onset colorectal cancer trend may be the supersizing of sugary drinks. In the 1940s, the standard soft drink bottles contained 6.5 ounces of sugary beverage. These days, 1-liter, contour-shaped bottles are available, and even the smaller ones hold 20 ounces. 

Is It Obesity or Is It Sugar?

Experts and authorities like the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute believe that obesity — and not sugar — causes cancer. Although they admit that sugar contributes to obesity, they state that sugar does not feed cancerous cells. 

Overweight man eating a donut
Obesity and high sugar consumption go hand-in-hand.

Fat cells contain compounds that cause inflammation in the body, facilitating cancer. More fat cells in the body means a higher cancer risk. Overweight people are at increased risk for at least 13 types of cancer

Evidence is mounting, however, that sugar may pose direct cancer risks. High insulin levels may have a hand in the inflammatory processes that can lead to cancer. 

Sugar’s relationship with obesity is intricate. The two cancer risk factors intertwine in many ways. 

  • Sugar and addiction. Researchers have produced evidence that sugar may be as addictive as some opiates. In rats, it produces similarly addictive effects. 
  • Addiction and cravings. The brain of an obese individual displays signs of addiction. It may be addicted to foods with high sugar and fat content.
  • Sugar and cognitive function. Foods high in sugar impair memory and may have a hand in the cognitive decline of the elderly. 
  • The sugar-fat connection. Mechanisms involved in sugar addiction may also have a hand in facilitating overeating and an affinity for high-fat foods. Fat and sugar together induce weight gain and obesity. 
Glucose Homeostasis Graphic
Sugar feeds fat cells.

Sugary Drinks and Other Cancers

Sugary drinks may cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, increasing the odds of liver cancer. 

 A 2022 study found that consuming sugary drinks increased the risk of liver cancer in postmenopausal women. 

The study featured more than 90,000 participants. It established that women who drank one sugary drink per day had 78% higher chance of developing liver cancer than those who only drank up to three sugary drinks per month. 

Like early-onset colorectal cancer, liver cancer has seen an increase over the last few years. The trend has left doctors puzzled. In approximately 40% of liver cancer cases, they can’t point to a known risk factor as the cause or facilitator. 

Colorectal Cancer Screening Is a Must

As early-onset colorectal cancer cases continue to rise, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45.

A colorectal cancer home test kit allows you to test for early-onset colon cancer at home. You can order a test kit online, provide a sample, and mail it in. 

eDrugstore Can Help

We carry colorectal cancer home test kits that allow you to screen for colon cancer in the comfort of your home.

When you order your colon cancer home test kit, we ship it to you quickly and discreetly.

Should your result be positive, we include a consultation with a U.S.-licensed doctor to help you determine what to do next. 

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