The claim: Drinking just three sugar-sweetened beverages a week could make your breasts more dense, increasing your risk for breast cancer, according to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
The research: 776 premenopausal and 779 postmenopausal women were recruited by researchers from Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Each woman's breast density was assessed by examining their mammograms. The women then answered a questionnaire about how often they consume sweet foods (such as chocolates, cakes, and ice cream), sugar-sweetened beverages, and how many spoonfuls of sugar they add to beverages or food.
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The results? “We found an association between sugar intake and increased breast density among both groups,” says lead study author Caroline Diorio. However, it was as if the women had two biologies: The postmenopausal women who ate more food that also included fat saw an increase in breast density, while the premenopausal women experienced more breast density when they consumed sugar-sweetened beverages. And it wasn’t like these women were pounding the soda; they were drinking just three sugar-sweetened beverages a week.
What it means: Sugar increases the migration of breast cells together, Diorio says, which may explain why the premenopausal women who consumed sugar-sweetened drinks were 3 percent more likely to have dense breasts than those who didn’t consume the drinks. Having dense breasts increases your risk of breast cancer by making it difficult to see tumors on mammograms.
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The bottom line: More studies need to be done, Diorio says, especially in populations where sugar intake is high. But until then, the association between sugar consumption and likelihood of breast density, while small, is significant. This just gives you another reason to kick sugar to the curb.