Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

6:18 PM, Jun 14, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Artificial sweeteners have been blamed for causing everything from headaches to mood and even behavioral changes.  But do they cause cancer?

It's the subject of this week's "8 Ways to Prevent Cancer" segment.

They're in thousands of food and beverage products.  One of six artificial sweeteners approved for use by the FDA.  But do they cause cancer?

"When we've put the best data together and there's no relation," says Dr. Graham Colditz, a researcher with the Siteman Cancer Center.

The scare first started in the 1970s when high amounts of saccharin caused bladder cancer in mice.

Dr. Colditz says the finding never translated to humans, and the warning was dropped.

"Then of course we've got new generations of artificial sweeteners, but then we've got new generations of studies," says Dr. Colditz. "So one of the largest cohorts out of the National Cancer Institute, 500,000 men and women looking at aspartame from beverages, again no relation with cancer across the board. They look at specific cancer sites, no cancers show any increase in risk."

More recently, there has been concerns about a link between artificial sweeteners and a possible increased risk of brain tumors in children.  But that was never proven.

"The NCI cohort actually showed that higher aspartame was related to lower risk of brain cancers," says Dr. Colditz. "They looked specifically at that because of the sorts of concerns that you and your viewers are aware of, and they saw the data running if you will in the opposite direction, which is in essence reassuring for those who are concerned."



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