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Coffee, fizzy drinks won't boost colon cancer risk--study

The scientists noted that the results for sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages should be interpreted with caution because just two percent of participants had consumed this volume of fizzy drinks.

Some good news for cola and coffee lovers! A new study suggests even high amounts of coffee or much-maligned sugar-sweetened beverages might not boost your risk of colon caner.

Some previous studies have tied soft drinks to increase in potential risk factors for colon cancer, such as obesity and diabetes. Likewise, some earlier studies suggest coffee and tea may lower the risk of cancer, but others show that they could increase the risk. But there had been little direct research on the subject.

The new research findings, published online on May 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggest drinking even large amounts of coffee and sugar-sweetened, carbonated soft drinks won't make you more likely to develop colon cancer.

Also, Zhang cautioned the outcome does not hold true for tea. In fact, the risk of developing colon cancer rose by 28 percent, on average, for the heaviest tea drinkers, who consumed at least four cups a day.

Study details
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reached the conclusion after analyzing 13 studies from North America and Europe, which involved 731,441 people, of whom 5,604 developed colon cancer.

Lead researcher Dr. Xuehong Zhang and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health followed the study subjects for up to 20 years after they had reported their dietary habits.

Study findings
The analysis showed that people who drank more than six 8-ounce cups of coffee per day were no more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who drank less or none at all.

Likewise, drinking more than 18 ounces a day of sugar-sweetened, carbonated beverages did not boost the risk of colon cancer.

"Drinking coffee, even more than six cups a day, was not associated with risk of colon cancer," said Zhang.

But the scientists noted that the results for sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages should be interpreted with caution because just two percent of participants had consumed this volume of fizzy drinks.

Tea boosts risk
Also, Zhang cautioned the outcome does not hold true for tea. In fact, the risk of developing colon cancer rose by 28 percent, on average, for the heaviest tea drinkers, who consumed at least four cups a day.

"The relationship between tea and colon cancer is unclear for the time being," said Zhang. "Drinking coffee or sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks was not associated with colon cancer risk.”

However, the authors of the study think that link could be due to chance, or factors that they didn't measure, for instance, whether or not people put sugar and milk in their tea, or had pastries with it, reports Reuters.

"The finding of an increased risk of colon cancer with higher tea consumption ... was unexpected, and the results may be due to chance, because only 3% of our study population consumed that much tea," Zhang said in an e-mail to MedPage Today.

"More research on how tea consumption may affect tumor progression and metastasis is warranted," he added, as well as more research on "whether tea consumption affects colon cancer risk in populations with a wider range of tea intake, and on whether associations differ by the type of tea consumed or preparation method."

“However, a modest positive association with higher tea consumption is possible and requires further study," he concluded.

About colon cancer
Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, occurs when there is an abnormal cell growth in the lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum. There are no early warning signs of this type of cancer.

However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms may include blood in the stool, abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits (such as constipation or diarrhea), unexplained weight loss, or fatigue.

Risk factors of colon cancer depend upon one’s genetics and lifestyle. Some of the risk factors include age, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, family history of colorectal cancer, and history of ovarian or breast cancer.