Sugary beverages and Uterine Cancer

Judy Keen
Jan 29, 2014

Cancer of the uterus, which includes endometrial cancer, was responsible for an estimated 61,900 new cases of cancer in 2013, and will result in approximately 12,200 additional deaths in the US. This makes uterine cancer the 4th leading cancer diagnosis and the 8th highest cause of cancer related death this year. While there are genetic factors that impact the development of cancer, including uterine or endometrial cancer, there are also many other factors within our own control that can impact the development or progression of this cancer. Some examples of these external factors include diet, exercise, pollutant exposure, smoking status, sleep patterns and stress. On this ever growing list of things that negatively influence our health, the ingestion of sugary-sweetened beverages has once again raised its head.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, and George Washington University have together linked ingestion of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda), but not sugar-sweetened baked goods, with an 47% increase in the risk of developing endometrial cancer (type 1, estrogen responsive cancer). The researchers looked to see if there were other factors which could explain this increased risk in people who consume these drinks, however their body mass index (measure of body fat or obesity), physical activity, history of diabetes nor smoking had any influence on the results.

While the underlying reason for this link between sugary drinks and increased cancer risk remains unclear, evidence is mounting to suggest that ingestion of large amounts of sugar, especially by drinking it, ultimately increases circulating hormonal levels in the body that stimulate the growth of cancer cells. This evidence suggests that increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and the resulting increased amount of body fat, leads to an increase in the production of certain hormones, including estrogen. Excessive levels of estrogen have been shown to be potent fuel for the growth of cancerous tumors, including endometrial cancer. Therefore, it would seem that limiting sugar intake, especially in beverage form, is an easy and controllable way to reduce the risk of developing endometrial cancer. The results of this study were published in the Nov 22 edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention by Dr. M Inoue-Choi and colleagues. This image was released by the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health.

Judy Keen

Judy is a S&T Alumni Fellow (HEHS, 2012-2014). She blogs about the latest cancer research, increasing the access to the scientific literature, and graduate education. Follow Judy on twitter @judykeenphd or at judykeenphd.com

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