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  • Writer's pictureTimothy P. Smith MS, RD, LDN

Do sugary drinks affect women's risk of colon cancer? [New Data, May 2021]

Updated: May 17, 2021

Published: May 13th, 2021

Timothy P. Smith MS, RD, LDN

Noble Nutrition, LLC


As of 2021, we're confident that a diet marked by excessive sugar intake (let's say 25 grams and up) lies at the root of today's more pervasive chronic diseases; diabetes, obesity, heart disease...but colon cancer? Already, we know that those born in 1990 are four times more likely to be develop colon cancer, compared to those born in 1950. It is possible that soda is influencing the trend?

A study from BMJ looked at this association, by analyzing data from over 95,000 women. In particular, researchers investigated subjects' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during adolescence and adulthood (using validated food frequency questionnaires.) Using statistical magic, data were then analyzed & compared with subjects' reported development of Early Onset Colorectal Cancer (EO-CRC).

Based on the results of this study, women who consume two or more sugary drinks per day have over twice the risk of EO-CRC when compared with those having less than one per week (RR 2.18; 95% CI 1.10 - 4.35; p=0.02). Another 16% increase in risk is tacked on per serving, thereafter (RR 1.16; 95% CI 1.00 - 1.36).

Further, each additional serving of sugary beverage per day, between the ages of 13 - 18 years, was associated with a 32% increased likelihood of experiencing EO-CRC (RR 1.32; 95% CI 1.00 - 1.75). But most interesting of all, every one sugary beverage replaced with a zero calorie drink, coffee, or milk, was associated with a 17% to 36% reduced risk of EO-CRC.

Based on these results, it seems that sweetened beverages may very well have a measurable influence on just another aspect of our long-term wellness. As I mentioned, we understand that excess added sugar influences our risk of developing a host of conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cirrhosis. However, I don't immediately think of issues with the colon/lower GI tract, so this is fascinating.

Regardless, I just think it's so interesting that sugar-free drinks fared so much better than regular sugar; we really do have a lot to learn, don't we?



Hur, Jinhee, et al. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake in Adulthood and Adolescence and Risk of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer among Women.” Gut, 30 Mar. 2021,, 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-323450. Accessed 14 May 2021.

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