Green circle with question mark inside Most likely or definitely true

Red circle with X insideFalse/misinformation

Gray circle with question mark insideWe’re not sure yet

Change or refine your search

Aspartame causes cancer

What you may have heard

Aspartame consumption can cause cancer.

What science tells us

With rising competition to make food sweet and appealing, as well as lower in calories, many companies switched from normal sucrose (table sugar) to sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners. Aspartame is one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners. Aspartame is similar to sugar, but it is sweeter than sugar, and can be found in different foods and beverages (ACS).

Epidemiological Evidence

Many studies have investigated whether or not artificial sweeteners and Aspartame have caused cancer (NCI), but no connection between cancer risk and Aspartame consumption has been found (ACS).

Laboratory Evidence/Supporting Evidence

There is no laboratory evidence that aspartame consumption leads to an increase in cancer risk.

IARC Carcinogen Classification: Not Classified

How to reduce your risk

Choose a sweetener that is FDA approved. These sweeteners have been studied extensively and are safe to consume. For example, sucrose (table sugar) and Aspartame are both good options, because they are FDA approved and have been proven to have little cancer risk, if any (ACS).

Consuming Aspartame or sugar-rich foods is often linked to higher chances of becoming obese, especially if they are not eaten in moderation. Obesity, or high BMI, has been linked to various types of cancers. Obese individuals have chronic inflammation, which, over time, can cause DNA damage that leads to cancer. They are also more likely to have other conditions or disorders that contribute to chronic inflammation: for example, Barrett’s esophagus, gallstones, ulcerative colitis, and hepatitis (NCI). To avoid excess body fat, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and have a goal of 150-300 minutes of weekly moderate physical activity (walking, running, hiking, etc.) (Mayo Clinic).

Bottom line

Eating food that contains Aspartame may not increase your cancer risk; however, a diet with excess sugar or Aspartame could have harmful health effects.

National Cancer Institute (NCI): Artificial sweeteners and cancer 
American Cancer Society (ACS): Aspartame and cancer 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): High-intensity sweeteners permitted for use in food in the United States 
Mayo Clinic: Obesity


July 6, 2021
Verified/updated: August 22, 2022