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Eating lots of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods could increase a person's likelihood of developing cancer of the pancreas, by far one of the deadliest types of cancer.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, followed 77,797 men and women aged 45 to 83 years for an average of about seven years. Those who reported eating five or more servings of added sugar daily, for example sugar added to tea, coffee or cereal, were 69 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who never added sugar to their food or drink.

It was found that people who consumed two or more servings of soft drinks a day had a 93 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who abstained from these beverages. Eating sweetened fruit soups or stewed fruit increased risk by 51 percent. But there was no association between sweets, marmalade, or jams and pancreatic cancer risk, possibly because these foods are eaten less frequently and in smaller quantities.

Factors involved in the loss of sensitivity to the blood-sugar processing hormone insulin, such as sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes, have all been tied directly to pancreatic cancer, a disease that kills the vast majority of people diagnosed within five years.

Eating too much sugar could therefore conceivably boost pancreatic cancer risk by putting greater demands on the pancreas to produce insulin while reducing sensitivity to the hormone, as well as through a number of other potential mechanisms.

Given the practical implications of the above findings and the poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer, further research on sugar and high-sugar foods in relation to pancreatic cancer risk is warranted.