DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Artificial sweeteners will cut calories, but a new study suggests they may not be safe alternatives for sugar.

Many food and drink products on the shelves have added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

“One obvious problem in our food supply is that sugar is added to everything,” said Dr. Jatin Roper with Duke Health.

In the new study published in PLOS Medicine, researchers in France tracked more than 100,000 adults.

They found those who consumed larger quantities of artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, had a higher risk of cancer.

“Particularly breast cancer and obesity-associated cancers,” Roper said. “The increased risk was about in the 10 to 20 percent range, which is significant looking at millions and millions of people.” 

So, are artificial sweeteners a safe alternative to regular sugar?

Dr. Roper says we just don’t know yet.

“We don’t have good studies comparing the two, but we know that sugars are linked to diabetes, are linked to weight gain, and can increase cancer risk,’ Roper said. “So, I think those facts should be considered when consumers are deciding what sweetener to consume.” 

Whether you prefer sugar or artificial sweeteners, doctors suggest both be consumed in small amounts.

“I think this warrants additional investigation but in the meantime, we should be cautious about how much of these artificial sweeteners we consume,” Roper said.