World Cancer Day on February 4 observed by 172 health orgs worldwide

Sweet drinks and junk foods – as well as tobacco and alcohol – are addictive and known causes of obesity and malignancies

Cancer illustrative (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Cancer illustrative
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Some 19.3 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the world in 2022, and in 2040, their number will increase to about 28.9 million, according to data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). 

Marking World Cancer Day held around the world on February 4, the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) released statistics on the situation here. The day is observed in 172 other health bodies from around the world. 

Last year, about 33,000 men and men will be diagnosed with cancer in Israel and about 12,000 died from cancer. A decade ago in 2012, 28,709 patients here were diagnosed and 10,640 died as a result of cancer. 

The ICA emphasizes that early detection can save lives and urges the public to access the tests that are carried out free of charge at the health funds as part of the health basket according to age. They also explain that adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of getting cancer by 50%. 

Known risk factors leading to cancer in Israel

Moshe Bar-Haim, the ICA’s director-general, explained that “half of the cases were caused by known risk factors that can be eliminated such as smoking, obesity caused by soft drinks and ultra-processed foods and alcohol consumption. Sweet drinks and junk foods are known causes of obesity, and like tobacco and alcohol, they can also cause addiction.”

Cancer (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY)Cancer (Illustrative) (credit: PIXABAY)

The Health Ministry fought for years to put a tax on sugary beverages, but it was canceled by the new Netanyahu government under pressure from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties who claimed the tax was aimed to punish them because this sector is a heavy consumer of soft drinks. 

The ICA’s digital campaign to adopt a healthy lifestyle is carried out through 21 steps called Total Health. The campaign will include new health recommendations that will appear every day for 21 days on the ICA’s Facebook page at

What is the relationship between sugary drinks and cancer?

In a recent large-scale study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention a few months ago, American Cancer Society researchers examined the relationship between drinking sugary drinks and all types of cancer, and in particular obesity-related tumors. A total of 934,777 older Americans with no history of cancer participated in the study. In 1982, they filled out questionnaires about their lifestyle, including drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like cola or other non-diet beverages or artificial sweeteners(such as diet sodas or diet iced tea. The researchers followed the mortality of the study participants until the end of 2016 and found that during the period there were 135,093 deaths from cancer (25.9% of all deaths). 

The data analysis shows that people who drank at least two cans of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a five-percent higher risk of dying from cancer associated with an abnormal body mass index (BMI), including colon cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, uterine cancer, and kidney cancer, compared to people who did not consume these drinks at all. The risk of colon and kidney cancer remains significant even after neutralizing the BMI. As for drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners, the researchers found an increased risk of obesity-related cancers and a link to the risk of pancreatic cancer, which remained significant even after controlling for BMI. 

A new American study published in the journal Proceedings of the [US]National Academy of Sciences last October has found that there is a relationship between menopausal obesity and an increased risk of breast cancer. More than 75% of new cases of the malignancies are in postmenopausal women. It is known that obesity increases the risk of breast cancer in menopausal women by about 50%, increases the risk of disease recurrence in women who have previously had breast cancer, is associated with a less favorable prognosis and less effectiveness of the treatments. However, little is known about the mechanism linking obesity to these results. 

In many organs of our body there are dormant microscopic and clinically undiagnosed tumors. In lab studies carried out in the past on dormant breast cancer cells and fat cells taken from menopausal women suffering from obesity, it has been shown that certain factors secreted by the fat cells change the angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels) and the potential for the development of cancer cells. 

The researchers concluded that with the huge dimensions of obesity worldwide, the insights provided by the study are of great importance and that in the future they may help with treatment strategies. 

Meanwhile, higher consumption of ultra-processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer, an Imperial College London-led observational study suggests. Researchers from Imperial’s School of Public Health have produced the most comprehensive assessment to date of the association between ultra-processed foods and the risk of developing cancers. 

Ultra-processed foods are food items that have been heavily processed during their production, such as fizzy drinks, mass-produced packaged breads, many ready meals and most breakfast cereals. These are relatively cheap, convenient and heavily marketed, often as healthy options. But they are also generally higher in salt, fat, sugar and contain artificial additives. It is now well documented that they are linked with a range of poor health outcomes including obesity, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study was based on information on the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adult participants whose health was monitored over a 10-year period, looking at the risk of developing any cancer overall as well as the specific risk of developing 34 types of cancer. They also looked at the risk of people dying from cancer.

The study, published in eClinicalMedicine, found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer overall, and specifically with ovarian and brain cancers. It was also associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer, especially ovarian and breast cancers.