Consumption of Sugars, Sugary Foods, and Sugary Beverages in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies

Annu Rev Nutr. 2018 Aug 21:38:17-39. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-082117-051805. Epub 2018 May 25.


High sugar intake may increase cancer risk by promoting insulin-glucose dysregulation, oxidative stress, inflammation, and body adiposity, but epidemiologic evidence is unclear. Associations between dietary sugars and lifestyle-related cancer risk from longitudinal studies were evaluated. We systematically searched PubMed, Embase, and CINAHL and identified 37 prospective cohort studies (1990-2017) reporting multivariable adjusted risk estimates for dietary sugars in relation to cancer. Of 15 and 14 studies on total sugar and sucrose respectively, 11 reported a null association in relation to cancer. Of 14 studies on fructose, 8 reported null associations, and 2 reported protective and 4 reported detrimental associations. In two of five studies on added sugars, a 60-95% increased cancer risk was observed with higher intakes. In 8 of 15 studies on sugary foods and beverages, a 23-200% higher cancer risk was observed with higher sugary beverage consumption. In conclusion, most studies were indicative of a null association, but suggestive detrimental associations were reported for added sugars and sugary beverages.

Keywords: cancer risk; prospective studies; sugars; sugary foods and beverages; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / analysis*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Food Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Carbohydrates