Soda linked to Pancreatic Cancer (COKE, PEP)
According to WebMD today, a new study finds that drinking as little as two soft drinks a week appears to nearly double the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Will the study have any affect on PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE:PEP) or Coca-Cola ( NASDAQ:COKE) shares?
Why the link with sugary sodas? Mueller says they are not certain. "What we believe is the sugar in the soft drinks is increasing the insulin level in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth. That increase in insulin is what may be leading to the development of the cancer."
The beverage industry protested the results. ''The study has a lot of weaknesses in it," Richard Adamson, PhD, scientific consultant for the American Beverage Association in Washington, D.C., tells WebMD.
One example, he says, are the small numbers of pancreatic cancer cases. He points out that of the 140 cases, 110 of those people did not drink sodas, while 12 had less than two servings a week, and 18 had two or more servings a week.
''It has a small number of pancreatic cancer cases compared to the population studied," he tells WebMD.
Other studies have found no link, he tells WebMD.
In a statement attributed to Adamson, the American Beverage Association points to a 2008 study finding no such link. It also takes exception to the focus on soft drinks rather than overall dietary patterns.
''You can be a healthy person and enjoy soft drinks," the statement reads.
Susan Mayne, PhD, associate director of the Yale Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, called the study results ''intriguing" in a statement but cautioned that the study finding was based on a relatively small number of cases and does not prove cause and effect. She is an editorial board member of the journal. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Even though the new study has limitations, the findings do echo those of previous studies, says Laurence N. Kolonel, MD, PhD, a researcher at the Cancer Research Center and professor of public health at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. With his colleagues, he evaluated the association between added sugars in the diet and pancreatic cancer risk, publishing the findings in 2007. “In our study, we found a positive association between high intake of fructose and pancreatic cancer,” he tells WebMD. “Since high-fructose corn syrup is the main sweetener in non-diet soft drinks, our findings and those of the present study are quite consistent.”
Bottom line: Of course big beverage companies like Coke and Pepsi will vehemently defend their beverages. But if this news does catch the public attention, you can bet on shares of COKE and PEP to fall.
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