Women Beware: Sugary Beverages may Increase Risk of Endometrial Cancer

Harold Mandel's picture
Sugary soft drink

Sugary beverages could raise a woman's risk of endometrial cancer. Here's how.

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Intense fears of being hit with gynecological cancers leads women to search aggressively for manners in which to prevent cancer. Information dealing with how women many be able to prevent cancer is always welcomed. News that nutrition can effect the risks for cancer has generated a great deal of interest in eating better. A recent report that sugary beverages may increase the risk for endometrial cancer is therefore of great significance.

Higher intake of sugar sweetened soft drinks is associated with an increased risk of type I, but not type II, endometrial cancer, according to a research report in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Prior to this research sugar-sweetened beverage intake was found to be associated with an increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes. However, any association between consumption of sugary beverages and endometrial cancer was not clear.

Endometrial cancer is the most common tumor which is found in the female reproductive system, writes Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It has been estimated by the American Cancer Society that greater than 40,100 women are diagnosed with this cancer every year in the United States. During a lifetime approximately one in 41 women will develop endometrial cancer.

Prior to menopause the ovaries of women generally produce two primary types of hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Endometrial cell growth is promoted by estrogen. Endometrial cell growth is inhibited by progesterone. Endometrial cancer has been observed to occur more often in women who have high circulating levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone. Factors which are associated with increased exposure to estrogen over time may lead to an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

The primary risk factors for endometrial cancer are:

1: Obesity, particularly being greater than 50 pounds overweight

2: Early menstruation, periods starting before age 12

3: Late menopause, after age 52

4: Never having given birth or a history of infertility

5: Ovarian diseases, such as polycystic ovaries

6: Tamoxifen use

Further considerations about risk factors for endometrial cancer are shared in an article by EmaxhHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell.

Women suffering from endometrial cancer generally complain of postmenopausal bleeding or irregular vaginal bleeding. About 33 percent of women who experience vaginal bleeding after menopause are found to have endometrial cancer. A large percent of endometrial cancers are found in very early stages because of abnormal uterine bleeding. The discharge which s associated with endometrial cancer is often pink, watery, or white instead of red. Clearly, any abnormal vaginal bleeding should be immediately checked out by a physician.

Other symptoms which are often associated with endometrial cancer include:

1: Difficult or painful urination or pain during intercourse.

2: Pelvic pain and experience

3: Unexplained weight loss

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Options for treating endometrial cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. Natural interventions, such as exercise, good nutrition, and adequate rest and sleep certainly may help improve the prognosis of endometrial cancer.

In a review of this study by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, MedPage Today writes that the most common type of endometrial cancer was observed about 80 percent more often in postmenopausal women who regularly drank sugar-sweetened drinks in comparison with women who did not consume these drinks.

Furthermore, the prevalence of estrogen-dependent endometrial cancer was seen to increase in a steady manner and and significantly with increased weekly consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. The hazard was increased by 78 percent among women who consumed four or more servings a week. The same association was not found with the less common nonhormonal endometrial cancer.

The researchers stated, "We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with higher risk of estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer, regardless of body mass index, physical activity, a history of diabetes, and cigarette smoking." Higher risk of type I endometrial cancer was found in association with higher consumption of sugars. The risk of estrogen-independent type II endometrial cancer was not found to be associated with consumption levels of sugar sweetened beverages and sugars.

A possible explanation for these findings has been the rise on prevalence of obesity found with the rise in consumption of sugar-containing drink in the U. S. This may explain the association of sugary drinks with endometrial cancer, which occurs disproportionately more often in obese women.

Obesity has been found to be associated with about 50 percent of type I endometrial cancers in developed nations. An association has been found in epidemiologic studies between higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. This all highlights the likelihood of a biologic explanation for sugar-sweetened drink consumption being a contributing factor in the development of endometrial cancer.

In this study factors which were found to be associated with endometrial cancer were:

1: Older age

2: Higher BMI

3: Higher waist-hip ratio

4: History of diabetes

5: Early menarche

6: Delayed menopause

7: Any estrogen therapy

A dose-dependent association between increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, excluding fruit juices, and development of type I endometrial cancer, was found. Women who had the highest consumption of sugared beverages had a 72 percent increased risk of developing type I endometrial cancer in comparison with women with the lowest consumption of sugary drinks. There was no association found between consumption of sugar-free drinks and endometrial cancer risk.

There was also no association found with consumption of sweets and baked goods. There was a trend seen towards increased risk of endometrial cancer with increasing consumption of sucrose and glucose. The finding of and association between drinking sugar-sweetened drinks and the development of endometrial cancer was not surprising due to the cancer's association with obesity.
However, the lack of association found between sugary foods and endometrial cancer was puzzling, and warrants further investigation.

An interesting consideration for lowering the risk of endometrial cancer is raised by EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD in an article which reviews an association between reducing uterine cancer risk and drinking coffee.

It has been my experience that women generally live in great fear of being hit with gynecological cancers. There is often a sense of panic and urgency experienced with any episodes of irregular menstrual bleeding, which certainly warrants immediate medical attention. Findings that increased consumption of sugary drinks and obesity are associated with an increased risk for endometrial cancer should be shared with patients. It is my professional opinion that counseling women about
these facts may have a dramatic impact on the prevalence of endometrial cancer and on outcomes in patients afflicted with this illness.

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Comments

This study does not show that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption causes endometrial cancer. In fact, its findings conflict with the results of several other published studies that showed no association between consumption of sugar and risk for endometrial cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, common risk factors for this condition include changes in female hormones, older age, obesity, and inherited genetic conditions – not uniquely sugar or beverage consumption. Moreover, the study only measured dietary behaviors at the very beginning of the study, yet makes conclusions about health outcomes over 12 years. In sum, this study fails to prove its sensationalist conclusion. Several other published studies have shown no association between risk for endometrial cancer and sugar consumption. One of these was a prospective study published in the same journal in 2011 (Friberg et al), which showed no connection between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and increased risk for endometrial cancer.
Thanks for your comment. Please keep in mind that I included the word "may' in my title, as follows: Women Beware: Sugary Beverages may Increase Risk of Endometrial Cancer, with the points you have made kept in mind.