Sugar-sweetened beverages and colorectal cancer risk in the California Teachers Study

PLoS One. 2019 Oct 9;14(10):e0223638. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223638. eCollection 2019.


Background: The association between sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and colorectal cancer (CRC) risk remains unclear and published data are limited.

Methods: The analytic cohort included 99,798 women, free of cancer at baseline, from the California Teachers Study, a longitudinal cohort comprised of 133,477 female teachers and administrators who were active or recently retired members of the California State Teachers Retirement System in 1995. SSB consumption constituted caloric soft drinks, sweetened bottled waters and teas, and fruit drinks, derived from a self-administered food frequency questionnaire. Consumption was divided into four categories: Rare or never, >rare/never to <1 serving/week, ≥1 serving/week to <1 serving/day, and ≥1 serving/day. CRC endpoints were based on annual linkage with California Cancer Registry, defined as first diagnosis of CRC, and classified following the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program coding system. Multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models were used to generate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for assessing the association between SSB consumption and incident CRC.

Results: A total of 1,318 incident CRC cases were identified over 20 years of follow-up (54.5% proximal colon and 45.5% distal colorectum). Compared with rare/never consumers, the multivariable-adjusted HRs (95% CI) were 1.14 (0.86, 1.53) for total CRC; 1.11 (0.73, 1.68) for proximal colon; and 1.22 (0.80, 1.86) for distal colorectum cancers among women consuming ≥ 1 serving/day of SSBs.

Conclusion: SSBs were not significantly associated with CRC risk. The biological effects of high SSB consumption make it important to continue to evaluate whether SSBs are associated with CRC. Additionally, future studies should further assess SSBs in large, racial/ethnically diverse cohorts of males and females, and, if feasible, address changes in SSB consumption over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages / statistics & numerical data*