Too much biscuits may cause womb cancer: Study

Women who snack on biscuits and cakes regularly are at an increased risk of developing womb cancer, a new study has claimed.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 23, 2011 14:07 IST

Women who snack on biscuits and cakes regularly are at an increased risk of developing womb cancer, a new study has claimed.

The 10-year study that looked at the eating habits of more than 60,000 women in Sweden found that those who treated themselves two to three times a week were 33 % more likely to suffer the disease.

It also found that the risk of developing a tumour jumped by 42 % among those who eat them more than three times a week, the Daily Mail reported.

Also known as endometrial cancer, the tumours in the womb affects around 6,400 women a year and kills an estimated 1,000 annually in the UK alone.

The risks are known to increase with weight gain, but a team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm wanted to see if there was a direct link between the amount of sweet foods eaten and the onset of cancer.

They studied data from thousands of women who completed questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, weight and general health in 1987. Ten years later, those still alive were given the same questions again.

After comparing the data with those earlier findings, the researchers found a total of 729 women went on to develop the diseases in the 18 years from the start of the study.

They found little or no increase in risk from eating certain high-sugar items such as sweets, soft drinks, jam or marmalade. But women who frequently snacked on sweet cakes, buns or biscuits were up to 42 % more likely to get cancer.

Writing in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the researchers said: "These data may prove to be of major public health significance if they are confirmed by other studies in other populations."

The study looked at how often volunteers ate such treats but not specifically how much. However, those exceeding a total sugar intake of more than 35 grammes of sugar a day --equivalent to about seven teaspoons -- faced a 36 % increase in tumour risk.

According to scientists, sugary diets affect cancer risk in several ways. One is that sugar overload makes the body release more insulin, which can stimulate the excessive growth of cells in the endometrial, the lining of the womb.

Another is that it boosts levels of the hormone oestrogen that has already been shown to trigger the uncontrolled growth of cells -- a key characteristic of cancer.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said keeping a healthy weight and staying physically fit were the best ways to reduce womb cancer risk.

"This study shows eating lots of sugar and certain sugary foods may increase the risk of womb cancer, but we would need to see these results repeated in other large studies like this before we can draw any firm conclusions," she said.

First Published: Aug 23, 2011 14:03 IST