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Researchers’ Shocking Discovery About Sugary Drinks

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The female sex hormone estrogen is known to play an active role in developing most types of endometrial cancer, but now researchers at University of Minnesota have found something else that dramatically escalates your risk: your Big Gulp®.

In postmenopausal women, the more sugar-sweetened beverages you drink, the higher your risk for estrogen-dependent type I endometrial cancer, the most common type of the disease, the Minnesota study found.

Women who guzzle sugary drinks raised their risk as much as 78 percent for the disease compared to women who opt for sugar-free varieties.

The study is the first to show a relationship between sugary beverages and an endometrial cancer.

Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., a research associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota School of Public Health who led the study, said in a statement she was not surprised at the findings.

In addition to cancer, numerous previous studies have linked sugary drinks to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and gout.

“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,” she said.

In a 2012 report, the Institute of Medicine concluded, “Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the [national] obesity epidemic.”

Although most cases of endometrial cancer occur between the ages of 60 and 70 years, a few cases may occur before age 40, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Endometrial cancer starts in the endometrium or the lining of the uterus, also known as the womb. The NCI estimates that nearly 50,000 women will be diagnosed with new endometrial cancer in 2013.

For the study, Inoue-Choi and colleagues used data from 23,039 postmenopausal women prior to the cancer diagnosis, as part of the 1986 Iowa Women’s Health Study.

To assess the information, the researchers used the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) in which study participants reported how often they consumed 127 food items over 12 months. The list of items included caffeinated and caffeine-free colas with sugar, and sugary non-cola carbonated beverages, including fruit drinks.

Participants were also asked about consumption of sugar-free soft drinks, and store-bought and home-baked sweets and baked goods, including chocolates, candies, cakes and pastries.

The researchers categorized the sugar-sweetened beverage consumption patterns of these women into quintiles, ranging from no intake (the lowest quintile) to between 1.7 and 60.5 servings a week (the highest quintile).

The study found that between 1986-2010, 506 type I and 89 type II endometrial cancers were recorded among the women Inoue-Choi and colleagues studied, but the association was only among women who consumed sugary beverages.

The researchers found no association between type I or type II endometrial cancers and consumption of sugar-free soft drinks, sweets/baked goods, and starch.

This study was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and published Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and Scuba enthusiast who lives in San Diego with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in publications internationally.


Endometrial Cancer. U.S. National Library of Medicine (Medline Plus). 20 November 2013.

“Consumption of Sugary Drinks in the United States, 2005-2008”. Ogden CL, Kit BK, Carroll MD, Park S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Health Statistic Brief, August 2011:1-8. Abstract available:

Sugar-sweetened Beverage Consumption Increases Endometrial Cancer Risk. Press Release, American Association for Cancer Research. 22 Nov. 2013.

“Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.” Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2012. Access at:

Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet. Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed 20 November 2013.

Reviewed November 22, 2013
by MIchele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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