A new human study shows that aspartame use is linked to increased risk of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and multiple myeloma in men.
A newly published long term study that spans 22 years shows that drinking one or more aspartame-sweetened soft drinks per day increases the risk of several blood cancers in men. The study was led by Dr. Eva S. Schernhammer of the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Men who consumed one or more aspartame-sweetened sodas per day had an increased risk of NHL and multiple myeloma, compared to men who didn’t drink diet soda. There was no increased risk of these cancers in women.
There was also an increased risk of NHL with a high use of sugar-sweetened soda in men. When data on aspartame-sweetened soda for both men and women was combined, an increased risk of leukemia was observed. This study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Some researchers claim the data is too weak to implicate aspartame as a cause of these cancers. Because regular soda also caused increased cancer risk, researches who conducted the study say that they can’t rule out chance as an explanation of their results, even though their research shows that aspartame could have a role on these cancers.
How could aspartame cause these cancers? In my previous article on aspartame and cancer, I explained how the compound increases Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Cancer cells use VEGF to grow, and some research shows that VEGF expression in patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is associated with a poor response to chemotherapy. Recent research also shows that VEGF and angiogenesis are implicated in the growth and pathogenesis of the disease. Why do men have higher incidence of blood cancers with aspartame use? Although the difference of cancer incidence between men and women wasn’t explained, it could be because men have more ADH enzyme levels. This enzyme changes methanol, a by-product of aspartame metabolism, to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde exposure has been implicated in an increased risk of death form multiple myeloma and other blood cancers. Other factors need to be determined as to why men have higher rates of blood cancers if they ingest aspartame and sugar. This human study shows that aspartame may have a role in blood cancers, and because there are biological mechanisms that show how it causes these cancers, it shouldn’t be ignored.