Drinking Soda Increases Prostate Cancer Risk

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Before you reach for that soft drink, you may want to consider other beverage options, such as green tea. Results of a new 15-year study (the Malmo Diet and Cancer cohort) found that drinking soda increases prostate cancer risk and it took less than one 12-ounce can daily to cause that risk.

The role of diet in the prevention, development, and treatment of prostate cancer is a topic of much research and debate, and has lead to the creation of various dietary plans and recommendations, such as the Prostate Health Diet, in attempts to help men better understand and manage this disease. This latest study from researchers at Lund University and Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, supports some previous findings and provides more food for thought.

The increased risk was for more aggressive forms of prostate cancer and was discovered in men who showed symptoms of the disease rather than through elevated PSA test results (prostate-specific antigen). During the earlier stages of prostate cancer, men typically do not have any symptoms, which is one of the reasons it can go undiagnosed unless men have regular screenings (e.g., PSA and digital rectal examinations).

The prostate cancer study

The study was conducted over a 15-year period and involved 8,128 men ages 45 to 73 who were free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes when they entered the study. All the men underwent regular medical examinations and were asked to maintain a diary of their food and beverage intake.

After an average 15-year follow-up, 817 men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. When the investigators analyzed the dietary information, this is what they concluded:

  • Men who drank just 11 ounces of sugary soda daily had an increased risk of prostate cancer of about 40 percent. More specifically, “Among the men who drank a lot of soft drinks or other drinks with added sugar,” according to Isabel Drake, a PhD student at Lund University, a co-author of the study, “we saw an increased risk of prostate cancer of about 40 percent.”
  • Men who regularly consumed low-fiber, sugary breakfast cereals had a 38 percent increased risk of developing less aggressive forms of prostate cancer
  • Men who followed a diet that included high amounts of rice, pasta, biscuits, and cake had a 31 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with less aggressive prostate cancer

The study’s authors noted that their findings “suggest that a high intake of refined carbohydrates may be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer,” but also pointed out that “not all foods that are typically high in refined carbohydrates were associated with prostate cancer.”

While the authors are reluctant to make firm dietary recommendations until more studies are done, previous research, especially about sugar, artificial sweeteners, and cancer, provides evidence that sweet soft drinks and other sugary foods can increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Drake I et al. Dietary intakes of carbohydrates in relation to prostate cancer risk: a prospective study in the Malmo Diet and Cancer cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012 Dec; 96(6): 1409-18