Diet soft drinks linked to reduced colon cancer recurrence, mortality
Patients with advanced colon cancer who drank artificially sweetened soft drinks had a reduced risk for recurrence and cancer-specific mortality, study data showed.
“Artificially sweetened drinks have a checkered reputation in the public because of purported health risks that have never really been documented,” Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Yale Cancer Center, said in a press release. “Our study clearly shows they help avoid cancer recurrence and death in patients who have been treated for advanced colon cancer, and that is an exciting finding.”
There have been concerns that artificial sweeteners increase risk for obesity, diabetes and cancer, but epidemiologic studies in humans have not confirmed this association.
The researchers evaluated 1,018 patients with stage III colon cancer, all of whom reported their dietary intake while participating in an NCI-sponsored adjuvant chemotherapy trial. Fuchs and colleagues investigated possible associations between intake of artificially sweetened beverages and cancer outcomes using Cox proportional hazards regressions.
DFS served as the study’s primary endpoint.
Median follow-up was 7.3 years, during which 348 patients experienced colon cancer recurrence or developed new primary tumors, 265 of whom died. An additional 44 patients died without recurrence.
Patients who had at least one serving of an artificially sweetened beverage per day demonstrated a lower risk for mortality or recurrence than those who did not drink low- or no-calorie drinks (HR = 0.54; 95% CI, 0.36-0.8).
Substituting a 12-ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage each day with an artificially sweetened drink was associated with a 23% reduced risk for cancer recurrence or mortality (RR = 0.77; 95% CI, 0.63-0.95).
“A growing body of literature suggests that poor dietary habits, such as high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, may increase risk [for] colon cancer recurrence and patient morality,” Brendan J. Guercio, MD, who was a resident at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute when the research was conducted, but is now a hospitalist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in the press release. “For colon cancer patients who have trouble abstaining from sweet beverages, choosing artificially sweetened options over sugar-sweetened beverages may allow them to avoid those health ramifications.”
Fuchs added that although the findings were stronger than expected, they fit in with prior knowledge about colon cancer.
“Factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, a diet linked to diabetes — all of which lead to an excess energy balance — are known risk factors,” Fuchs said. “We now find that, in terms of colon cancer recurrence and survival, use of artificially sweetened drinks is not a health risk, but is, in this study, a healthier choice.” –by Andy Polhamus
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.