Endometrial cancer is the #4 most common cancer affecting women in the United States. It is #8 for causing cancer-related deaths. Government estimates for 2013 indicate that 49,560 diagnoses were expected, as were 8,090 deaths. Several factors are thought to contribute to the development of this form of cancer but a new study reveals a potent new culprit: sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Endometrial cancer, affecting the inner lining of the uterus, comes in type 1 and type 2 forms. Type 1 is an estrogen-dependent cancer, which links it to several factors associated with estrogen production. The University of Minnesota study finds that a steady consumption rate of SSBs — but not sugar-sweetened foods — is strongly associated with type 1 endometrial cancer regardless of other contributing factors.

Other contributing factors include being postmenopausal, carrying excess body weight, diabetes, experienced or experiencing late menopause, and undergoing selected estrogen therapy.

To identify any possible links between consumption of a diet rich in added sugars, the Minnesota study, led by Maki Inoue-Choi, polled 23,039 women participating in the Iowa Women's Health Study between 1986 and 2010 on their dietary habits. The team specifically asked about each participant’s consumption of 127 food/beverage items during the previous 12 months. The research team then kept track of which women developed endometrial cancer in the following years.

For the sake of the study, sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as manufacturer-prepared beverages: soft drinks and colas, fruit punches and fruit juices, lemonade, carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, low-calorie beverages, and diet beverages.

Sweets and baked goods were defined as any homemade or store-bought candies, chocolates, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, cakes, pies, coffee cakes, sweet breakfast bread, muffins, sweet rolls, and other sweet starchy pastries.

The research revealed a 78% increased risk of type 1 endometrial cancer in women who consumed four or more servings of SSBs a week. This added risk of cancer was independent of all other contributing factors.

The sugary beverages did not seem to influence the development of type 2 endometrial cancer. Sugar-sweetened foods were not linked to increased risk for either type of endometrial cancer.

The #1 source of added sugars in the American diet is sugar-sweetened beverages. There is no nutritional benefit to consuming these high-calorie beverages. Regular and excess consumption of these beverages is associated with insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. The University of Minnesota is the first to link sugar-laden beverages to endometrial cancer.

Source: Inoue-Choi, Maki, et al. "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake and the Risk of Type I and Type II Endometrial Cancer among Postmenopausal Women." Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. American Association for Cancer Research. Nov 22, 2013. Web. Apr 6, 2014.

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