One soft drink a day could increase your risk of cancer

It’s no secret – too many soft drinks are far from good for our health, but did you know that drinking even just one soft drink a day could increase your risk of cancer – regardless of the size of your waistline?

A new study by Cancer Council Victoria and the University of Melbourne analysed more than 35,000 Victorians over a twelve year period who developed 3,283 cases of obesity-related cancers including liver, ovary, pancreas and gallbladder.

“We were surprised to find increased cancer risk was not driven completely by obesity,” said Associate Professor Allison Hodge of Cancer Council’s cancer epidemiology and intelligence division.

“Even though these cancers were commonly associated with obesity, our research found this risk existed for all participants, no matter their size.”

“Even people who were not overweight had an increased risk if they regularly drank soft drinks. This was not the case with those who drank diet soft drinks, suggesting sugar is the key contributor.”

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said these findings provided yet another reason for people to cut back their consumption of these drinks.

“Sugary drinks are already known to cause obesity, which greatly increases the risk of 13 types of cancer,” he said. “And cancer is just one of many chronic health conditions associated with sugary drink consumption – including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay.

“We need more people to understand this and switch to water.”

Mike isn’t the only young sweet-toothed Aussie to drink soft drinks without realising the adverse effects. Shockingly, figures show around half of Australian children aged two to 18 drink sugary drinks every day.

“Younger Australians are consuming significantly more sugary drinks than older people, they are widely available and often discounted,” explained Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition.

“Big brands bombard kids with marketing for these unhealthy sugary drinks, which can set kids up for a lifetime of health problems.”

“A 20 percent health levy on sugary drinks can help deter people from these cheap and very unhealthy drinks, and help recover some of the significant costs associated with obesity and the increasing burden this puts on our public healthcare system.”

This is one of the first studies to identify the association between sugary drinks and cancer risk.

It was only because of your support that Cancer Council Victoria was able to help conduct this ground-breaking research. Thank you.

Mike kicks sugary drinks habit

Mike drank nearly half a litre of soft drink a day throughout his teen years, weighing in at 120kg at his heaviest.

“They looked good, they tasted good and they were always accessible,” the 31-year-old said.

“I used to have a couple of cans of Fanta or Coke a day and only drank out of a force of habit.”

Mike decided that he wanted to make a change by coupling healthy eating and exercise, however he soon realised that soft drinks provided no benefits and were counterproductive to maintaining his healthy lifestyle.

“I noticed people who were leading active lifestyles weren’t drinking soft drink and that motivated me even more. If I had known just how bad they were for me back then I wouldn’t have thought about touching them.”

Tips on how to cool down without sugar

  • We recommend water as the best choice to cool down! Though our study didn’t find an association between diet drinks and cancer risk evidence from other studies indicates that diet drinks increase risk of weight gain. They are also acidic and contribute to tooth decay.
  • Make your own drinks – LiveLighter has some refreshers with cucumber that are perfect for a hot afternoon.
  • Spritz yourself using a spray bottle of water
  • Run water over your wrists or use a cold towel
  • Go for a swim

For recipes, tips and tricks on how to reduce your sugar intake, visit .

How much sugar is hidden in your thirst-quencher?

How much sugar is hidden in your thirst-quencher?

Other stories you may be interested in

Game-changing cancer research projects awarded $3.3 million lifeline

Monday 27 February 2023
Thirteen cutting-edge cancer research projects have been awarded a $3.3 million lifeline from Cancer Council Victoria in February. Read more

New data reveals nine in ten Australians want government action to stop Australia’s escalating e-cigarette crisis

Thursday 23 February 2023

A new Cancer Council Victoria report shows growing public support for policy action to limit the availability and use of e-cigarettes. Almost nine in ten Australian adults (87%) want government action to stop a new generation of Australians from becoming addicted to nicotine.

Read more

Supporting Regional Victorians

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Whether it’s been throughout the pandemic, or the heart-breaking floods of 2022, regional Victorians have constantly shown immense resilience throughout adversity. The community is there for each other, so it’s important for Cancer Council Victoria to be there for regional communities.

Read more

View all stories