Ask the Pharmacist: Study suggests colon cancer grows faster with sugary drinks

Suzy Cohen
Pop cans

It’s more bad news for sugary drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup or HFCS. According to a new animal study, consuming a small amount of this sweetener can speed up the growth of tumors. The study focused on intestinal (colon) tumors and the amount of high fructose corn syrup was equivalent to the amount found in one can of soda. I’m concerned because I know somewhere out there, children are celebrating their birthdays with lots of candy and beverages that are high in HFCS.

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The amount of corn syrup found in a can of soda appears to give mice bigger colon tumors. You might be thinking that other factors came into play such as weight, or illness, but the results of this mouse study were actually independent of compounding factors. This finding comes at the same time as another concerning trend is coming to light. That is more and more young adults are being diagnosed with colon or colorectal cancer in their 30s and dying from it. 

High fructose corn syrup is a liquid sweetener, derived from corn, that consists of both glucose and fructose in a ratio of 45 to 55. So, it’s a blended sugar that contains two different natural sugars, and it is mainly fructose which is a fruit sugar. 

The fact that sweet drinks accelerate tumor growth within the colon begs the question about other tumors. Does it drive tumor growth for other cancers, or just colon? And it raises the question about soda, candy, yogurt and frozen foods which use HFCS as the sweetener of choice.

Image source: Getty Images

Does sugar directly feed cancer cells? Or is it the weight gain associated with HFCS that is really driving the problem? Is it because these types of sugars are ‘drug muggers’ of your probiotics?  You cannot have a healthy immune system to even recognize cells that have gone rogue, if you don’t have a healthy gut microflora.

If you have a sibling or parent who suffered colon (or colorectal cancer), you should take this research seriously as I do. My brother died of colon cancer and so I stay tuned in to research, especially because it’s so easy to choose another beverage over the ones that are suspect when it comes to tumor growth. Maybe it’s not “easy” … as I type that sentence I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of my sweet friends today. I don’t normally lecture friends, because I love them just the way they are. However, this friend drinks 15 cans of soda a day, every day.  Remember, the HFCS studied was the same amount as that found in one can of soda. Today while we were driving home from lunch, I mentioned this article I was writing, and the new research and I asked her point-blank, if she would consider consuming just 10 cans a day and replacing five cans with fresh water. This was her reply: 

Water? No. It’s only good for showers, and for flushing your toilet.”

I tried. You should at least try once, if you care about someone, right? My intentions were good.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit