Hard impacts

Soft drinks cause cancer

Published: Wednesday 30 June 2004

The steep rise in incidences of a cancer type in developed countries is due to the increase in the consumption of soft drinks. For instance, the volume of soft drinks consumed in the US increased five-fold in the last 50 years. So did cancer rates -- in the past 25 years, rates of oesophageal adenocarcinoma increased nearly six-fold among white males, the key soft drink consumers of the country. As per researchers of Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Hospital, it takes about 20 years for the impacts to manifest. They have given an account of their findings in the May 18, 2004 online edition of New Scientist.

The rise in cancer incidences associated with soft drink consumption was observed in a number of developed countries, like the UK and Australia. But in nations like Japan, where soft drinks are comparatively not very popular, there has been no dramatic increase in the cancers affecting the oesophagus, the tube linking the mouth and stomach.

The fizzy drinks lead to gastric reflux, which is the most important risk factor for oesophageal adenocarcinoma. If one drinks a quarter of a litre of water, the stomach distends by a quarter of a litre. But if it is a carbonated drink, the stomach may distend by half a litre. This causes reflux -- the acid of the stomach is thrown back into the foodpipe.

Moreover, heavy consumption of fizzy drinks leads to obesity, which is also associated with the reflux disease. Mohandas Mallath, the lead researcher, notes that some people with a reflux develop Barrett's oesophagus, which is a precursor to the oesophageal cancer.

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