Women who consume sugary drinks regularly have a higher risk of developing estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer after the menopause compared to other women of the same age, according to a study carried out at the University of Minnesota and published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention1.

Estrogen-dependent type I is the most common type of endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is also known as uterine cancer.

The National Cancer Institute in the United States reports that there are about 49,560 new cases of endometrial cancer and 8,190 deaths caused by the disease annually. Most women develop endometrial cancer after 55 years of age.

Study leader, Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., and colleagues reported a 78% higher risk for endometrial cancer, which appears to be dose-dependent – the more sugary drinks the woman consumes the higher her risk.

Dr. Maki Inoue-Choi said:

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.

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 authors added that their finding needs to be replicated in other studies, as theirs is the first to demonstrate a link between high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and endometrial cancer risk.

The research team gathered and analyzed data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which contained information on 23,039 postmenopausal females before they were diagnosed with endometrial cancer. They had all completed questionnaires on their dietary habits, where they lived and their medical histories in 1986.

The Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) had been used to assess the respondents’ dietary intake. The FFQ includes a person’s eating habits regarding 127 food items during the previous 12 months.

In the study, the researchers categorized sugary drinks consumption patterns of the women into quintiles, ranging from zero (the lowest quintile) to 60.5 servings per week (the highest quintile).

Of the 23,039 women in the study, 506 developed type I and 89 type II endometrial cancers.

Dr. Inoue-Choi said “Research has documented the contribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to the obesity epidemic. 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 team had also assessed whether the consumption of sugar-free soft drinks, sweets and baked goods, and starch might be associated with endometrial cancer risk. No link was identified.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

Higher intake of SSB (sugar-sweetened beverage) and sugars was associated with an increased risk of type I, but not type II, endometrial cancer.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

According to the US National Library of Medicine2, most endometrial cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the 1-year survival rate is approximately 92%.

For cancers that have not spread (no metastasis), the five-year survival rate is 95%. If cancerous cells have spread to distant organs, the 5-year survival rate is about 23%.

Previous Medical News Today articles on dietary habits and endometrial cancer risk

Acrylamide consumption – In 2007, scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands reported a link between acrylamide consumption and endometrial cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Acrylamide is a compound found in cooked (especially burned) carbohydrate rich foods.

Childhood obesity and height – In May 2013, Julie Aarestrup, who works at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, reported in the European Congress in Liverpool that her team found a possible link between obesity and height in childhood and endometrial cancer risk in adulthood.

Coffee – Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health reported in 2012 that long-term regular coffee consumption may reduce women’s risk of endometrial cancer.