Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and sweetened fruit drinks have long been associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now a new study has concluded that they also increase the risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women. Endometrial cancer rates are rising worldwide; it is now the fourth most common cancer and eighth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.
Researchers assessed the dietary habits of 23,039 postmenopausal women, and found that type 1 endometrial cancer, the most common form of the disease representing about 80 percent of cases, was significantly more frequent in women who regularly drank sugar-sweetened beverages. This effect was dose-dependent. The risk of cancer steadily increased from women who drank no sugar-sweetened beverages to those who drank the most. The women with the highest intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, who drank between about 2 and 60 servings of non-diet soda or sweetened fruit drinks per week, had a 78 percent increased risk of type 1 endometrial cancer.
This association was independent of other health and lifestyle factors that have been linked to endometrial cancer risk, like body mass index, smoking and exercise. Because type 1 endometrial cancer is estrogen dependent, the researchers believe that the high levels of readily digestible sugar in these beverages may somehow affect estrogen levels—although paradoxically, women who drank large quantities of natural fruit juice or frequently ate sweets and baked goods, which also contains high levels of sugar, had no increased risk of the cancer.
From What Doctors Don’t Tell You, via Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 2013; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0636