Are Sugary Drinks Associated with Colon Cancer?  

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

Woman comparing ingredients on soda bottle
We may be aware that sugary drinks are vices in our everyday lives, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less satisfying…or less difficult to kick. But those who regularly indulge in soda, sweet tea, fruit juice or energy drinks may have more incentive to ditch them based on a recent study that correlates sugary beverages to an increased risk of early-onset colon cancer in women.
An article published in May by the British Medical Journal and the British Society of Gastroenterology’s Gut journal reviewed data from a 24-year study of the eating and drinking habits of 96,464 female nurses. Researchers found that while a relatively small number of them had developed early onset colorectal cancer, the women who consumed more than two servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages had more than a doubled risk of early-onset colon cancer than the women who consumed less than one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages a week. 
From ages 13 to 18, each daily serving was linked to a 32% increased risk of eventually developing colorectal cancer before age 50.  Favoring sugary soft drinks, teas and juices can also increase your risk for colon cancer in other ways. 
Drinking an excess of sugary beverages can put you at a greater risk to develop type 2 diabetes than people who rarely crack open a bottle of pop or juice. The domino effect there is that people with type 2 diabetes (typically, non-insulin dependent) have an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Many risk factors for type 2 diabetes and colon cancer tend to overlap, especially obesity and physical inactivity.

What Should I do to Promote Colon Health?

Good digestive habits are key in unlocking life-long colon health. Try curbing the sodas and sugar-stocked juices and instead practice some of the following dietary habits that are sure to keep your colon happy:
  • Eat plenty of fiber. Fiber-rich foods include fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries and raspberries, as well as dark-colored vegetables, potatoes, navy and white beans and peas, soybeans and edamame.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking around eight glasses of water per day is always a good rule of thumb, not just in promoting a healthy colon.
  • Try prebiotics and probiotics. Bacteria doesn’t always have to be a dirty word! “Good bacteria,” like the kind found in certain brands of yogurt, contain prebiotics and probiotics.
  • Manage your weight. Those who are overweight carry an increased risk of digestive problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, gallstones, liver disease and more.
  • Avoid excess dietary fat. As mentioned above, fiber-rich foods are a healthy alternative to those unhealthy fats that can lead to countless health complications. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and fatty fish like salmon are all recommended substitutes.
  • Partake in preventive health screenings. Don’t put off colorectal cancer screening! The risk drops dramatically when cancer is caught early, so everyone should have a conversation with their doctor by age 45 about when to start regular screening.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network cover colorectal screenings for most members beginning at age 45 to align with the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. For more information, click here.
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