Press release: Childhood Cancer 2012 - artificial sweeteners

25 April 2012

25th April 2012

Childhood Cancer 2012: International Scientific Conference on Early Exposures and Childhood Cancer

Popular British-made artificial sweetener causes cancer concernA leading cancer scientist is calling for urgent research to be carried out after a new study found that mice were at increased risk of developing cancer after consuming the popular low-calorie artificial sweetener sucralose, which was discovered in Britain (1) (2).

The findings will be presented for the first time today (Wednesday 25th April) at the Childhood Cancer 2012 conference in London by Dr Morando Soffritti, Director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy (3).

Since the 1970s, the growing obesity problem in industrialised countries, particularly across Europe and America, has led to an increased demand for reduced-calorie food and drink. Artificial sweeteners are consumed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide and are found in a wide array of food and drink products ranging from diet soft drinks and cakes to foods marketed to diabetics, and are also used in medicines (4).

With the expansion of the artificial sweetener market, concern has arisen among consumers regarding their safety and their possible long-term health effects, in particular the potential cancer risks (5).

Previous studies conducted by Dr Soffritti’s group on more than 3,000 rats and mice have found that rodents fed aspartame, the most widely used artificial sweetener, from the womb to death, had an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer (6). Thus far, food safety experts have ruled aspartame to be safe for human consumption (7). But the growing concern has prompted the European Food Safety Authority (an advisory body to the European Commission) to carry out a new investigation. Its findings are due to be released later this year (8).

‘Our early studies in rats showed increases in several types of cancer, and, in our most recent aspartame studies, we observed a statistically significant increase of liver and lung tumours in male mice. This shows aspartame causes cancer in various places of the body in two different species,’ Dr Soffritti explained.

‘Health concerns over aspartame are leading consumers to switch to the widely promoted alternative: sucralose. Now that we have found evidence of a link between sucralose and cancer in mice, similar research should be urgently repeated on rats, and large scale observational studies should be set up to monitor any potential cancer risk to human health.’

In the study, Dr Soffritti’s group fed various doses of sucralose to 843 mice as foetuses, and from when they were born until they died. Post-mortem examinations revealed that in male mice, the more sucralose they consumed, the more likely they were to develop leukaemia (9).

As major consumers Dr Soffritti is urging that children and pregnant women be advised to avoid, wherever possible, consuming artificial sweeteners until adequate research shows rodents are no longer at risk of developing cancer, and there is therefore not a cancer risk to humans (10).

Media Enquiries and Notes to Editors

Oral presentation, Assembly Hall, 1100hrs BST Wednesday 25 April

From 0830hrs BST Tuesday 24 April to 1700hrs BST Thursday 26 April
Childhood Cancer 2012 press office (Bishops Robing Room):
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7390 1578

About Children with Cancer UKChildhood Cancer 2012 is an international scientific conference on early exposures hosted by leading children's charity Children with Cancer UK. Children with Cancer UK (formerly CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA) is the leading national children’s charity dedicated to the fight against childhood cancer.

The charity funds life-saving research into the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood cancers and works to protect young lives through essential welfare and campaigning programmes.

Over the past 24 years, what started as a small memorial charity has become a major force in paediatric oncology helping to drive childhood leukaemia survival rates up to over 80%.

To date Children with Cancer UK has raised almost £140 million pounds for the research and treatment of childhood cancer.  The charity receives no government funding and relies entirely on voluntary donations.


References(1) ‘Aspartame and sucralose: the experimental evidence of cancer risks’ Soffritti M et al, Ramazzini Institute, Bologna, Italy, abstract and papers to be presented to the Children with Cancer Conference, Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, London.
(2) Sucralose was discovered by British scientists in 1976 and developed by the UK sugar manufacturer Tate and Lyle. (http://www.tateandlyle.com/aboutus/ourindustry/pages/sucralose.aspx)
(3)’Aspartame and sucralose….cancer risks’ Soffritti M et al as in (1) above
(4) ibid
(5) ibid and summarised in: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/business/yourmoney/12sweet.html?pagewanted=all
(6) ibid
(7) http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm208580.htm
http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/aspartame.htm
(8) http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/aspartame.htm
(9) ‘Aspartame and sucralose….cancer risks’ Soffritti M et al, as in (1) above.
(10) Dr Soffritti is urging long-term carcinogenicity bioassay for those artificial sweeteners for which adequate data are not available, namely: saccharine, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and the blends of these compounds.

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