Sugar-sweetened beverages have long been associated with a number of health risks – including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And now, a new study reveals that sugary drinks may also be associated with a significantly increased risk of a common type of endometrial cancer.
In a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers analyzed data collected from 23,039 postmenopausal women as part of the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The data included information on the women’s dietary intake and medical history.
As part of the study, participants were asked to report their typical consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages – including Coke, Pepsi and other carbonated beverages with sugar – in addition to their consumption of noncarbonated fruit drinks, like Hawaiian Punch or lemonade.
Overall, the researchers discovered that the women who reported the highest intake of sugary drinks had a 78 percent increased risk of developing estrogen-dependent type 1 endometrial cancer – the most common type of endometrial cancer. The more sugary drinks the women consumed, the worse their risk for developing the cancer.
It is estimated that 49,560 women in the United States will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the researchers, type 1 endometrial cancer is an estrogen-dependent cancer, which may explain why sugary beverages are linked to an increased risk for the disease.
“We know…that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may increase body fat, and higher body fat may increase estrogen levels,” study author Maki Inoue-Choi, a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, told FoxNews.com.
While the risk posed by sugar-sweetened beverages may seem substantial, Inoue-Choi said that it’s relatively small compared to the overall risk for endometrial cancer associated with obesity.
“Obese and overweight (women) may have up to 3.5 times higher risk for endometrial cancer,” Inoue-Choi said.
Interestingly, the study didn’t find any correlation between increased intake of other criticized foods, such as sugar-free sodas, sweets or baked goods and starches.
“One theory is that sugar from whole foods come with other nutrients ,fat, (and) fiber, so they may slow sugar absorption,” Inoue-Choi said. “But beverages don’t come with these nutrients, so the sugar may be absorbed more quickly.”
While this study is the first to link sugar-sweetened beverages to endometrial cancer, Inoue-Choi emphasizes that more research is still needed to confirm the connection.
“This needs to be replicated in other studies, but everyone should follow the current guidelines to avoid sugar-sweetened beverage intake, because it may increase the risk of other health conditions like obesity, diabetes heart disease and cancer,” Inoue-Choi said.