Following the discovery in a new study that mice have a higher risk of developing cancer after eating the popular British-made low-calorie artificial sweetener sucralose, a leading cancer scientist calls for urgent research.

Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy will present the findings of the study for the first time at the Childhood Cancer 2012 conference in London.

Hundreds of millions of people all around the world consume artificial sweeteners, which can be found in a large variety of foods and drinks, including soft drinks, cakes and foods for diabetics, as well as medicines. The increasing problem of obesity in developed countries, which started in the 70’s in Europe and the U.S., has led to increasing demands for reduced-calorie foods and drinks. However, the expansion of the artificial sweetener market has also led to rising concerns amongst consumers in terms of safety and potential long-term health effects, especially with regard to the potential cancer risks.

According to earlier studies by Dr Soffritti and team, approximately 3,000 rodents who were fed with aspartame, the most commonly used artificial sweetener, had a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer; the risk period was calculated from conception until death.

Until now, food safety experts have deemed aspartame to be safe for human consumption, however, rising health concerns have prompted the European Food Safety Authority to conduct a new investigation, the findings of which are expected to be published later this year.

Dr Soffritti explained:

“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 tumors in male mice. This shows aspartame causes cancer in various places of the body in two different species. 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.”

During their study, Dr Soffritti’s team fed 843 mice, from the time they were fetuses until the time they died, with various doses of sucralose. According to post-mortems, the more sucralose male mice consumed, the higher was their likelihood of developing leukemia.

Dr Soffritti strongly advises major consumers, such as children and pregnant women to avoid consuming artificial sweeteners whenever possible until appropriate studies provide sufficient evidence that rodents are no longer underlying the risk of cancer, and that the risk of cancer in humans, due to artificial sweeteners, has therefore been eliminated.

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Written By Petra Rattue