Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Sugar and cancer

We recently reported in this section of the BDJ1 growing evidence which suggests a link between sugar-sweetened drinks consumption and wider health issues such as obesity and type II diabetes.

It was suggested that when giving dietary advice, dentists should also warn patients about the potential association with these medical conditions, as well as dental disease.

We would like to bring to the attention of the readers two recent studies published which suggest a link between sugar consumption and breast and pancreatic carcinoma.

Tavani et al.2 reported a case-control study conducted between 1991 and 1994 in Italy involving 2,569 women with breast cancer and 2,588 female controls. Women in the highest tertile dessert intake (including biscuits, cakes and ice cream) and sugars (including sugar, honey, jam and chocolate) had multivariate odds ratios of 1.19 (95% confidence interval 1.02-1.39) and 1.19 (95% confidence interval 1.02-1.38), respectively. These results were similar in strata of age, body mass index, total energy intake and other covariates.

Schernhammer et al.3 examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and the development of pancreatic cancer in an Austrian cohort. Among 88,794 women and 49,364 men without cancer at baseline, 379 cases of pancreatic cancer were documented during a 20 year follow-up. Only women in the highest category of sugar-sweetened drink intake (>3 drinks weekly) experienced a significant increase in risk (relative risk 1.57; 95% confidence interval 1.02-2.41; p = 0.05) and the risk was limited to those with low physical activity and elevated body mass index.

It is helpful for dentists to appreciate the wider implications of sugar consumption when discussing preventive advice with patients. The two reported studies help to provide further evidence for the wider health implications of sugar consumption.


  1. 1

    Gill SK, Gill D S . Sugar sweetened drinks. Br Dent J 2004; 197: 520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Tavani A, Giordano L, Gallus S et al. Consumption of sweet foods and breast cancer risk in Italy. Ann Oncol 2005.

  3. 3

    Schernhammer E S, Hu F B, Giovannucci (Ed). Sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer in two prospective cohorts. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prevent 2005; 14: 2098–2105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gill, S., Gill, D. Sugar and cancer. Br Dent J 200, 31 (2006).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links