Study Links Sugary Drinks, Endometrial Cancer in Menopausal Women

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So you’ve reached mid-life. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a great time to really think about where you’ve been and where you want to go – and that includes the choices you make to protect your health.

    What’s one choice to make that could have ripple effects in so many areas? It’s what you drink throughout the day. If you’re a middle-age woman who regularly drinks sugary beverages – whether it’s a soda, fancy coffee drinks or sweetened ice tea – you may be increasing your risk of several conditions. For instance, new research suggests that consuming high levels of sugary beverages may increase the risk for endometrial cancer among women after they have gone through menopause.

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    In the study, researchers out of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 23,000 women who lived in Iowa. These women, who were in their 60s and 70s, were followed from 1986 to 2010.
    The researchers found that participants who consumed the largest amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 78-percent greater risk of being diagnosed with estrogen-dependent type 1 endometrial cancer.  However, there wasn’t any link found between endometrial cancer and sweets/baked goods, starch and sugar-free soft drinks.

    "Other studies have shown increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has paralleled the increase in obesity," said Dr. Maki Inoue-Choi, the study’s lead author. "Obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogens and insulin than women of normal weight, [and] increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer."

    So why would middle-age women who are overweight be prone to developing this disease? The American Cancer Society (ACS) points out that development of most endometrial cancers is based on a woman’s hormone levels; furthermore, many risk factors for this disease affect estrogen levels.  A shift in a women’s hormonal balance in which the body produces more estrogen then progesterone increases the risk of developing this kind of cancer. “After menopause, the ovaries stop making these hormones, but a small amount of estrogen is still made naturally in fat tissue,” the ACS states. “This estrogen has a bigger impact after menopause than it does before menopause.”

    Researchers have found that using estrogen alone for hormone therapy can lead to endometrial cancer in women who have a uterus. Therefore, progesterone-like medications need to be taken along with estrogen (combination hormone therapy) in order to lower the risk of endometrial cancer among these women.

    Now let’s go back to the topic of soft drink consumption. There are some other possible health issues that middle-age women need to consider in consuming these beverages. Researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of 88 studies that was published in 2007 found not only clear associations between soft drink intake and body weight, but also lower intakes of milk, calcium (think bone health) and an increased risk of some health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.  Endometrial cancer also is about four times more likely to be found in women who have diabetes. The ACS points out that while diabetes tends to be more common among overweight people, people with this condition who are not overweight still have a higher risk of this type of cancer.

  • So what should you do? The first step is to change your regular beverage into a treat that you enjoy on rare occasion. Then figure out another type of beverage that you enjoy that can take the sugary drink’s place. For instance, infusing water with fruits, herbs or vegetables (such as cucumber) can add some interest for your taste buds. Another healthy option is tea, whether cold or hot (which actually is a welcome beverage on a cold winter’s day).  A cold glass of low-fat or skim milk also can do the trick, as can vegetable juice.

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    American Cancer Society. (2013). Endometrial (uterine) cancer.

    Preidt, R. (2013). Sodas, other sweet drinks tied to higher risk for endometrial cancer. MedlinePlus.

    Vertanian, L. R., et al. (2007). Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health.

Published On: November 25, 2013