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Drinking Sugary Beverages Could Increase Risk of Endometrial Cancer

Update Date: Nov 22, 2013 01:25 PM EST

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been found to be extremely unhealthy for people of all ages. In a new study, researchers found another potential health risk due to the consumption of sugary drinks. This study found that postmenopausal women who drank sugar-sweetened drinks had an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer when compared to postmenopausal women who did not consume these beverages.

Endometrial cancer is cancer of the lining in the uterus, also known as the endometrium. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are an estimated 49,560 new cases with 8,190 deaths in 2013. For this study, Maki Inoue-Choi, a research associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, and colleagues examined data on 23,039 postmenopausal women who were a part of the Iowa Women's Health Study. The women provided information on their daily dietary intake, demographics and medical history in 1986 before they were diagnosed with cancer.

"Although ours is the first study to show this relationship, it is not surprising to see that women who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher risk of estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer but not estrogen-independent type II endometrial cancer," said Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., M.S., R.D. "Other studies have shown increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has paralleled the increase in obesity. Obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogens and insulin than women of normal weight. Increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer."

The study focused on dietary intake, which was measured using the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ). This tool required people to report their intake of 127 food products within the past 12 months. The participants had to report how often they drank certain beverages from four categories. The first category grouped Coke, Pepsi and other colas with sugar together. The second category was made up of caffeine-free colas with sugar. The third group included other carbonated drinks with sugar and the last category was noncarbonated fruit drinks, such as lemonade.

The team was able to group the women into quintiles based on their consumption of these drinks. The lowest quintile was no intake and the highest was between 1.7 and 60.5 servings per week. The researchers reported that women who were fell in the highest intake quintile had a 78 percent higher chance of getting estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer, which is the more common type. From 1986 to 2010, 506 women were diagnosed with type I and 89 women were diagnosed with type II.

"Research has documented the contribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to the obesity epidemic," said Inoue-Choi. "Too much added sugar can boost a person's overall calorie intake and may increase the risk of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer."

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention and it was funded by the NCI.

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