Sugar-sweetened drinks and cancer risk

Do sugar-sweetened drinks increase your cancer risk?

There is no strong evidence to link sugar and cancer directly. However, if you regularly drink sugary drinks, or drink them in large portions you are more likely to be consuming more calories than you burn.

It can be easy to drink too many sugary drinks as they aren't very filling, despite being quite high in calories. This can lead to weight gain, being overweight and obese, which in turn can cause many cancers.

What are sugar-sweetened drinks?

Sugary drinks include things like:

  • Regular cola, lemonade and other soft drinks sweetened with sugar
  • Cordial and squashes such as a blackcurrant juice drink
  • Flavoured water sweetened with sugar
  • Energy drinks and sports drinks
  • Tea and coffee with added sugars or syrups
  • Milkshakes and frappés

cancer prevention icon for sugary drinksOur recommendation is to limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks – find out how 

How many sugar-sweetened soft drinks do we consume?

  Age group (years)
  4–10 11–18 19–64 65+
Millilitres (ml) of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed by the UK population per day 83 191 129 40

Figures from 2014–2016.

A can contains 330ml and a bottle contains 500ml of sugar-sweetened drinks. This shows that, on average, 11–18 year olds are drinking the equivalent of four cans of sugar-sweetened drinks a week.


Statistics on sugar-sweetened soft drinks come from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015 – 2015/2016).
 
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